Politicians and lawyers in the country are busy speculating over the impending verdict in the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case, scheduled for February 8, involving BNP Chairperson Khlaeda Zia.
The case accuses the former prime minister of embezzling Tk2.1 crore that came as funds for the orphanage from abroad.
Although BNP leaders and its lawyers believe that there is no scope to prove Khaleda guilty in the case the prosecution and leaders of the ruling Awami League and its affiliated lawyers believe otherwise.
Lawyers analyzing the case have said that it has been filed under the penal code and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Act. If Khaleda is convicted under the penal code, the maximum penalty could be life imprisonment. If she is convicted for corruption, she could face a maximum seven-year jail term.
In case her sentence is below one year, lawyers are giving contradictory views on whether she can be freed on bail instantly on condition of appealing against the verdict.
On January 25, Judge Md Akhtaruzzaman of Dhaka’s Fifth Special Judge Court fixed the day for the verdict after hearing arguments from the two parties in the case filed a decade ago against the former prime minister, her eldest son and four others.
ACC lawyer Mosharraf Hossain Kajol dubbed the case “a very sensitive matter.”
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“We have been able to prove the charges against her. Now we are waiting for the verdict … We do not want to talk too much about a sub-judice matter," he said.
Kajol said that Khaleda can apply for immediate bail if her sentence is below one year on condition of appeal.
Khaleda's lawyer Sanaullah Mia claimed that the prosecution was unable to prove allegations of corruption against the BNP chief.
“None of the charges have been proven. We hope that she will be acquitted,” he said.
SM Rezaul Karim, the former general secretary of the Supreme Court Bar Association, explained the sections in Khaleda Zia's case.
"If the charges are proven against Khaleda Zia, she will face a minimum punishment of 14 years in jail and a maximum life imprisonment. The court can give different punishments, but not below the minimum punishment,” he said.
“Even if she is sentenced to one year in jail in the corruption case, she will have to go to jail and then file an appeal against it,” he added.
ACC filed the case in 2008 against six people for allegedly embezzling Tk2.1 crore from Zia Orphanage Trust fund. In addition, in 2011, the ACC accused the BNP chief and three others of misappropriating Tk3.15 crore from the Zia Charitable Trust Fund.
Khaleda, her elder son Tariq and four others were accused in the case. Out of the six, Khaleda is on bail, two are in jail and three others, including Tarique, are fugitives.