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Bangladesh court gives ex-PM new jail sentence

October 29, 2018

Opposition leader and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia was given an additional seven-year prison sentence on corruption charges. Her supporters reject the graft charges, saying they are politically motivated.

Bangladesh's former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/AP Photo/A. M. Ahad

A court in Bangladesh found former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia guilty of misuse of power on Monday for misappropriating money collected for a charity fund she named after her late husband.

The special court in the country's capital Dhaka sentenced her to seven years in prison, saying that she misappropriated $375,000 (€329,000) that was raised for the Zia Charitable Trust Fund.

The 73-year-old leader of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is currently serving a five-year prison sentence for a separate graft case. In February this year, she was sentenced to jail for embezzling funds for an orphanage.

Zia did not appear in court on Monday, as she is currently hospitalized.

Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina
Zia has had a long-running rivalry with current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (pictured above)Image: Reuters

Supporters decry graft charges

The BNP and Zia's supporters reject the corruption charges against her, saying they are politically motivated. She faces over 30 other cases against her that are pending in courts across the country.

A makeshift court was set up inside Dhaka Central prison in order to speed up Zia's trial — a move which her lawyers described as unconstitutional.

Monday's conviction is expected to further hamper Zia's chances of challenging long-time rival and current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Bangladesh's general election in December.

According to Bangladeshi law, people who are imprisoned for more than two years cannot run for office for the next five years.

Zia entered politics in the 1980s after her husband Ziaur Rahman was killed in an abortive coup. She served for two terms in office, from 1991 to 1996 and again from 2001 to 2006.

Hasina came to power in 2014 in a controversial and bloody parliamentary election that was boycotted by Zia and the BNP.

rs/ng (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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