Bangladesh opposition leader Khaleda Zia jailed for 5 years in corruption case

DHAKA: A court in Bangladesh sentenced opposition leader Khaleda Zia to five years in jail on Thursday after convicting the two-time former premier of embezzling money meant for an orphanage.

Zia, leader of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), was found guilty of stealing $252,000 from a trust created for an orphanage, a charge she had dismissed as politically motivated.

"Since the court has been able to prove the charges against her and considering her social and physical status, Zia has been sentenced to five years in jail in the section 409 and 109 of the penal codes," said the judge, Mohammad Akhteruzzaman.

Violent clashes broke out between security forces and protesters in Dhaka ahead of the verdict.

Police fired tear gas at thousands of opposition activists who defied heavy security to escort the car taking Zia, a two-time former prime minister, to a Dhaka court for the verdict.

The private television station Somoy said at least five police officers had been injured and two motorcycles torched during the clashes that broke out several kilometres (miles) from the court premises.

Hearings have been delayed for years by numerous petitions to higher courts.

Zia's lawyers say the charges are aimed at keeping Zia and her family, which ruled the country for 15 years, from politics.

"It is not a criminal case. It is a political case," her lawyer Moudud Ahmed, a former justice minister said.

Zia faces dozens of separate charges related to violence and corruption. Her son, who is in exile in London, was convicted of money laundering in 2016.

Last month, prosecutors sought the death sentence for Rahman for his alleged role in a deadly 2004 grenade attack in which current prime minister Sheikh Hasina was injured.

The trial is fraught with risk for the authorities.

Similar demonstrations in 2014 and 2015 around elections left nearly 200 people dead.

Prime Minister Hasina this month announced a general election would be held this year. The BNP, which boycotted the 2014 polls, is expected to contest the vote.




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