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Zia Charitable Trust case: Court to try Khaleda in old Dhaka jail

  • Published at 08:39 pm September 4th, 2018
Khaleda Zia
File photo of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia outside the special court that convicted her in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case at Bakshibazar in Dhaka Dhaka Tribune

Proceedings to be heard in institution where BNP chief is serving five-year term

The government has set up a temporary court at the old Dhaka central jail to hold the trial of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and three others in the Zia Charitable Trust corruption case.

Judge Md Akhtaruzzaman of the Dhaka Special Judge Court 5 will begin the trial today from inside the prison, where Khaleda has been kept since her conviction in another graft case earlier this year.

A gazette notification in this regard was issued by the Law Ministry on Tuesday, mentioning that the court had been moved to inside the jail due to security reasons.

It also said the makeshift court will be set up in Room No.7 of the prison’s administrative building.

Prosecution lawyers said the decision was made as Khaleda Zia has not been produced before the makeshift court at Bakshibazar during the hearings of the case, since she was convicted in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case on February 8.

The former prime minister is now serving five years’ imprisonment at the erstwhile Dhaka central jail on Nazimuddin Road in Old Dhaka.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) filed the Zia Charitable Trust case at Tejgaon Police Station in August 2011, accusing Khaleda and three others of abusing power to raise funds for the trust from unknown sources.

The three other accused in the case are: Harris Chowdhury, political secretary of the then prime minister Khaleda between 2001 and 2006; Ziaul Islam Munna, assistant private secretary to Harris; and Monirul Islam Khan, APS to former Dhaka city mayor Sadeque Hossain Khoka.

BNP calls transfer of court unconstitutional

BNP leaders and Khaleda’s lawyers have protested the court move, describing it as “unconstitutional” and saying it was done to make sure the BNP chief is never released from jail.

The lawyers also said that the move was against the law.

“This will be a camera trial, which cannot be held in a case like this. This move is completely unconstitutional,” BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told a press briefing at Khaleda’s Gulshan office on Tuesday evening.

Fakhrul said Khaleda Zia’s trial has been held up to now in a special court set up at the Dhaka Alia Madrasa premises. 

“Now, the government is taking the trial inside the jail by issuing a gazette notification,” he said.

He alleged that the government was doing this to establish a one-party rule in the country. “This kind of activity will impact the upcoming national election. BNP is taking this very seriously.”

BNP Joint Secretary General Syed Moazzem Hossain Alal told the Dhaka Tribune that the gazette from the law ministry had been issued in a hurry. 

“Our lawyers were always in touch, but even they had no idea that this court was being set up,” he said. “It’s part of the plan and process to repress the political opposition.”

Moazzem claimed that the trial of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman during the Agartala Conspiracy Case was held the same way, and that his daughter, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has reintroduced it.

Khaleda’s lawyer Sanaullah Mia said the government move was against the constitution and laws.

“Turning a prison into a court meant the trial was being held following the government’s wish,” he said.

“This has been done to ensure that she is never released.”