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Dhaka Tribune

Even prosecutors spoke for Khaleda’s bail

Update : 05 Apr 2015, 07:33 PM

After all the drama over BNP chief Khaleda Zia’s arrest warrant and speculations over her fate if she surrendered, the prosecution ended up backing her plea for bail.

Prosecutor Mosharraf Hossain Kajol agreed with the defence counsels, saying: “Yes, considering her age, status and prestige, Khaleda Zia may get bail.”

The judge, Abu Ahmed Jamadar, offered his condolences for the loss of her younger son Arafat Rahman Koko as Khaleda sat in a cushioned chair – brought into the court along with a side tea-table for her.

Judge Jamadar told her why he was compelled to issue the arrest warrant cancelling her bail. “No one [neither Khaleda nor her lawyer] appeared on her behalf before the court.”

He said: “There was no intention of cancelling the bail and sending her to jail.”

Leader of the main political opposition, Khaleda Zia went back home after yesterday’s hearing instead of to her office where she had been staying for over three months, initially because she was not allowed to come out and then later by choice.

The next hearing was fixed for May 5 upon recommendation by the defence, who pointed out that the city corporation elections of April 28 were important and a date after that would be agreeable. Judge Jamadar exempted Khaleda from appearing person. She may send a lawyer on her behalf.

Khaleda Zia arrived at the special court at Bakshibazar shortly after 10:30am yesterday amid heavy security. But other than about 20-25 party leaders, there was no swarm of party sympathisers like the previous occasions. The court and adjacent areas swarmed with police, border guards, Rapid Action Battalion and plainclothesmen.

A women’s front of the party attempted to bring out a procession from near the Dhaka Medical College near the court, but were blocked by the police. They then began to pray for Khaleda’s bail and later resorted to taking up position by the roadside.

The proceedings began with BNP leader Mahbubuddin Khokon, also a defence counsel, saying: “If her security is ensured, she will certainly appear before the court.” He referred to an attack on his party chief on December 24 when Khaleda as a cause for concern.

Defence lawyer AJ Mohammad Ali, also a former attorney general, then submitted a bail prayer.

When the judge pointed out some errors, the counsel said it was an act of the “computer devil,” which the judge evidently overlooked.

He then asked whether any other defence lawyers had anything to say. Moudud Ahmed took the opportunity. “Khaleda Zia has always wanted to come to the court, but we advised her not to because of security reasons.”

Prosecutor Kajol agreed to this statement as well. “We understand this. We hope that [Khaleda] will continue to appear in the future.”

The judge began with his condolences and said: “I can empathise with a bereaved mother.”

The special judge was in the middle of explaining that he wished nothing more than the case to continue when both prosecutors and defence lawyers complained that a journalist had taken photos inside the court room. They pleaded for a directive from the judge.

In response, the judge said if the photo were published in any media outlet, then the person responsible would have to face legal action. “I do not want to be tough. If anyone does so, then I will impose restriction on journalists’ entry.”

Judge Jamadar had first fixed April 26 for the next hearing but defence lawyer Khokon sought more time mentioning that the city corporation polls were scheduled for April 28 and the Bar Council election on May 20.

The judge agreed that the city polls of Dhaka and Chittagong were indeed important and set May 5 for both the cases.

Judge Abu Ahmed Jamadar also granted bail to two other accused – former BNP lawmaker Kazi Salimul Haque and businessman Sharfuddin Ahmed – in Zia Charitable Trust and Zia Orphanage Trust cases. Both appeared before the court yesterday

The orphanage case has progressed to deposition and ACC Deputy Director Harun-or-Rashid, investigating both the cases, has been deposed.

The defence pleaded that he be recalled for cross examination. Khaleda’s lawyers followed it up with another petition saying they needed certified transcripts of the deposition once the court recalled the anti-corruption officer.

That was the only time that the prosecution appeared to differ with the defence. They argued against giving the defence the case documents.

After hearing both sides, the court directed the prosecution to provide the defence with necessary documents and adjourned the trial until May 5.

Khaleda has been irregular in attending the proceedings. She was absent on 56 out of 64 dates.

The court on February 25 issued arrest warrants against Khaleda for repeated absence – she was not represented by a lawyer either.

On March 4, the court set yesterday for trial rejecting a defence plea to withdraw the arrest warrant against the BNP chief, prime accused in both the cases.

Khaleda, her elder son and BNP Senior Vice-Chairman Tarique Rahman and seven others were indicted in the two cases on March 19 last year.

Six people including Khaleda and Tarique were indicted in the Zia Orphanage Trust case for embezzling over Tk2.1 crore by through an allegedly fake trust in 1991. In the other case involving Zia Charitable Trust, four people including the BNP chief were accused of raising funds abusing power of Khaleda’s prime ministerial office during 2001-06.

The Anti-Corruption Commission filed the orphanage trust case on July 3, 2008 and the charitable trust case on August 8, 2011.

The three-time former prime minister has been staying at her Gulshan office since January 3. Since then, senior party leaders have been saying she would not leave until the ongoing anti-government campaign demanding fresh polls gets a rational achievement.

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