Even after her imprisonment in a corruption case, more legal complications now seem to be awaiting Khaleda Zia with police on Monday showing her arrested in three old violence-related cases.
Meanwhile, the BNP top brass are also facing legal troubles and arrests in other cases.
Pro-BNP lawyers and party leaders think the government is moving to prolong the BNP chairperson’s time behind bars to keep her away from the next national election.
If procedures in the other cases follow soon against Khaleda, she will have to remain in jail even if she manages to secure bail in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case, in which last Thursday she was given five years in prison.
BNP leaders have already said that they would challenge the verdict at the High Court and plead for her bail, but that might take a while as it is not sure when the trial court would release the certified copies of the verdict.
They think the government plans to have the central BNP leaders arrested and keep them in jail for a long time so that the party cannot mobilize an effective movement, and when/if Khaleda gets out on bail, she would have only a handful of party leaders to launch a movement or the general polls campaign.
Police have already arrested a number of BNP leaders including Gayeshwar Chandra Roy, Aman Ullah Aman, Aminul Haque, Shamsur Rahman Shimul Biswas, Rajib Ahsan and Nabi Ullah last week before and after the graft case verdict.
The party’s Vice Chairman Shamsuzzaman Dudu was also arrested on Monday in a case filed at Ramna police station over Thursday’s clashes in Dhaka.
Four more cases were also filed over the clashes at Ramna and Shahbagh police stations. Central BNP leaders are afraid that more of them could get arrested in those anytime.
However, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir on Monday said the party would not go to polls without Khaleda. “No national election will be held without her... We will free Khaleda Zia from jail through a peaceful movement.”
[caption id="attachment_246494" align="aligncenter" width="800"]
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, centre, alongside other senior party leaders speaks with reporters in front of the National Press Club in Dhaka during a human chain protest on Monday, February 12, 2018 | Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune
Standing Committee Member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain also demanded withdrawal of all cases against BNP leaders and activists.
Legal battles ahead for Khaleda
Sources from inside BNP said the special court, which convicted the BNP chief, might take a week more to issue the certified copies of its judgment. Although, her lawyers have already submitted a plea to get a copy, they will not receive it this week.
Khaleda’s Adviser and lawyer Khandaker Mahbub Hossain said the court would take more time if the government wants to keep her behind the bars. “But we will deal with the cases legally, with patience.”
On Monday, the former prime minister was shown arrested in a case filed in Comilla over the torching of a bus at Chouddogram that killed eight people in 2015. Arrest warrant for Khaleda and 48 others in the case was also issued on January 2.
Gulshan police showed her arrested after the warrant was sent to Dhaka for implementation last week. Charge sheet in the case accusing Khaleda and the others was filed in March last year.
Khaleda will need to appear before the court to secure bail in this case.
The proceedings of two other arson cases also filed in Comilla, however, have already been stayed by the High Court.
Meanwhile, police on Monday submitted to the old Dhaka Central Jail authorities her summons to appear in court in two cases lodged at Shahbagh and Tejgaon police stations in 2007 and 2008.
Department of Prisons’ Dhaka Division Deputy Inspector General Touhidul Islam confirmed they received the documents, but could not say what were the charges levelled against Khaleda in these cases.
He also told reporters on Monday that Khaleda would be produced at Dhaka’s Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court on February 18 and March 4 in those cases.
The BNP chief currently has 36 cases, including those on murder, corruption, subversive activities and sabotage charges, against her. Trials in 19 of those are underway.
Fourteen of these 19 cases were transferred to the makeshift special court at the capital’s Bakshibazar. Of them, the trial in the Zia Charitable Trust graft case is at the final stage while the indictment hearing in the Barapukuria coalmine graft case will begin on February 18.
Besides these, arrest warrants were also issued for Khaleda in several other cases, including those filed over sedition charges.