Bangladesh Nationalist Party Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia has been jailed for five years after she was found guilty in the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case. Her eldest son and BNP’s Vice-Chairman Tarique Rahman and four others have been given 10 years in the case and a fine of Tk 2.10 crore each in the politically significant case ahead of the parliamentary election, local media reports said.
Judge Md Akhtaruzzaman of the Special Court-5 in Dhaka sentenced Khaleda to rigorous imprisonment and said the shorter term was for “her health and social status”. Khaleda will be kept at the old Dhaka Central Jail on Nazimuddin Road.
The judge read a short summary of the of the 632-page verdict in presence of Khaleda.
She entered the makeshift court premises around 1:40 p.m., accompanied by BNP supporters and activists, and entered inside the court at Alia Madrassa playground at 1:50 p.m. Throughout the way, she was escorted by a large number of law enforcers and party activists at the front. Her motorcade witnessed a tension in Moghbazar and Kakrail, on the way to court, where police lobbed tear gas shells to disperse activists amid a standing ban on gathering clamped in Dhaka city for today. Two other accused in the case were already taken to the special court in the morning.
In July 2008, the Anti-Corruption Commission filed the case accusing Khaleda, her son BNP's Senior Vice-Chairman Tarique Rahman and four others for misappropriating over Tk 2.10 crore grant money for orphans. The other accused are: former lawmaker Kazi Salim Haque, businessman Sharfuddin Ahmed, Khaleda's former principal secretary Kamal Uddin Siddiqui and BNP founder Ziaur Rahman's nephew Momenur Rahman. Of them, Kamal and Momenur are on the run. On Mar 21 in 2014, a Dhaka court framed charges against the six accused. The complainant alleged that the fund was created as part of the embezzlement scheme, and only Khaleda administered the fund. According to complainant, a grant of $1,255,000 was transferred from the United Saudi Commercial Bank to the Prime Minister's Orphanage Fund. The fund was created by the then premier Khaleda shortly before the transfer was made on Jun 9, 1991.
As the verdict went against Khaleda, there is a possibility that she might not be able to contest the election slated for December this year.
In her 35 years of political career, Khaleda went to the jail several times but never due to conviction. She was detained several times during the anti-Ershad movement in the 1980s and in 1990.
During the 2007-2008 tenure of the army-backed caretaker government, she was in jail for about a year on charge of corruption.
Khaleda was made Vice-Chairperson of BNP in March 1983 after the assassination of her husband and former President Ziaur Rahman. She became Chairperson of the party on May 10, 1984, a post she is holding till date.
It was learnt that, Khaleda will file appeal challenging the imprisonment. The lawyers of the BNP chief have already filed a petition seeking certified copy of the verdict. They filed the petition just after the court delivered the verdict in the much-talked-about case.