Fresh warrant against ex-B'desh PM Zia after graft case bail

Bangladesh's ex-prime minister Khaleda Zia was today granted bail in a corruption case but her plans to walk free were thwarted as a fresh warrant was issued against her in another case.

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief Zia, 72, was sentenced to five years in jail on February 8 in connection with the embezzlement of Taka 21 million (about USD 250,000) in foreign donations meant for the Zia Orphanage Trust, named after her late husband, military ruler-turned-politician Ziaur Rahman.

"The bench granted her bail for four months and simultaneously ordered authorities to prepare arguments on her appeal against the conviction and imprisonment," a court official said.

But hours after the high court order, she was "shown arrested" in another criminal case under a separate arrest warrant, officials said.

A court in central Comilla district in January had ordered Zia's arrest for instigating a series of clandestine arson attacks while she faces several identical charges in different courts for spearheading a protracted violent anti-government campaign three years ago.

"The warrant today reached the Central Jail ordering her appearance before the judge in Comilla," an official said on condition of anonymity.

Earlier, the high court bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Shahidul Karim said it considered Zia's age as one of the reasons for granting her bail.

Court officials said the bail was granted after reviewing the case documents received from the trial court.

The court said it was granting the former premier interim bail considering four grounds after hearing both parties.

The four grounds are the lower term of her sentence, the paper book has not been prepared yet, she appeared before the court and did not abuse her bail during trial, and her age and health condition.

The bench, however, stayed the fine of Taka 2.10 crore slapped on Zia.

On February 8, the court had also sentenced five other accused, including Zia's son and BNP acting chairperson Tarique Rahman, to 10 years' imprisonment and fined them Tk 2.1 crore each.

Tarique, who is in the UK now, and Mominur Rahman, nephew of late president Ziaur Rahman, are still shown as fugitives in the case documents.

Attorney General Mahbubey Alam, who represented the state, said they would appeal against Zia's bail order.

"We have already started the process to file the appeal. Hopefully, we will be able to file it tomorrow (Tuesday)," he told media at his Supreme Court office after today's ruling.

The verdict against Zia had jolted the country's political scenario ahead of this year's general elections.

The BNP has claimed that the cases are politically-motivated to keep its party chief out of the national elections.

Law Minister Anisul Huq said that the high court order today proved the government had no interference in the case.

The corruption case is one of dozens pending against Zia, who has been a rival of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for decades.

The charges against her had already led to her boycotting polls in 2014, which triggered widespread protests at the time.

Zia, however, appears to be seeking to contest the next polls set for December this year.

BNP's secretary general Mirza Falhrul Islam Alamgir earlier said the party would not take part in the polls discarding Zia and "no national election will be held without BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia".

But Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said her government could not do anything if the BNP again decides to boycott the polls, but that elections would be held in due time whether or not the BNP takes part.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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