Former Bangladesh PM Zia sentenced to five years in prison for corruption

Authorities have been on high alert for days in Dhaka, where political demonstrations by Zia's centre-right BNP and its Islamist allies in 2014 and 2015 left almost 200 people dead.

Md Akhtaruzzaman, judge of the special court set up in Dhaka's central Bakhshibazar area, passed the verdict in a crowded court after Khaleda reached the court more than three hours behind the schedule. Anticipating blockades and protests, the government had detained several senior BNP leaders, while several others have gone into hiding. The court also said that the defence tried their best to hinder the trial proceedings as they sought time for 35 occasions in the name of changing the court.

File image of former Bangladesh premier Khaleda Zia.

Khaleda, a two-time prime minister of the country, is the first head of the government convicted in graft cases after Hussain Muhammad Ershad. The ruling came four years after Zia and others were indicted in the case. "We will appeal against the judgment as soon as we get the certified copy of the verdict", Mahbub Uddin Khokon, one of Zia's lawyers, told BenarNews. "We have been deprived of justice".

"That is what has been proved during the rule of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina". A similar jail term was handed down to four of her aides.

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Hasina, during a public rally at Bangabandhu Udyan in the southwestern coastal city of Barisal, said: "Khaleda Zia looted public property when she was in power. she burnt to death over 500 people and injured over 3,000 when she was in opposition in a demonstration of extreme brutality". Police fired tear gas at the demonstrators ahead of Zia's hearing. In a country riven by dynastic politics, security forces fearing clashes had increased ahead of the verdict, along with supporters of both major political parties.

The 72-year-old leader plans to appeal against her conviction, lawyers said, and is likely to be freed on bail during that process, But it may affect her ability to stand in the general elections slated for December.

The BNP had dismissed the charge as politically motivated.

Soon after her conviction Zia had told her relatives that she "will be back".

Zia, 72, denies misusing global funds donated to the charitable children's trust. The later amount was meant to go to the orphanage. Zia was catapulted into Bangladeshi politics in the early 1980s when her husband former President Ziaur Rahman, was assassinated.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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