Dhaka: Bangladesh’s former prime minister Khaleda Zia, serving a five-year jail term in a corruption case, was today granted bail by the country’s Supreme Court, which upheld a high court order in her favour. Her lawyers, however, said that the verdict was unlikely to bring Zia out of prison as her bail pleas in six other cases against her were pending hearing.
Court officials said a four-member bench of Supreme Court’s Appellate Division headed by chief justice Syed Mahmud Hossain decided to grant Zia bail, upholding a previous High Court order. The apex court also directed the High Court to dispose of by July 31 the hearing of Zia’s appeal petition against her conviction and imprisonment in the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case which sent her to jail, they said.
“We expect to secure her bail in the pending cases as well,” her lawyer Joynal Abedin said.
The 72-year-old Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chairperson was jailed for five years on February 8 over the embezzlement of 21 million taka (about USD 250,000) in foreign donations meant for the Zia Orphanage Trust, named after her husband late Ziaur Rahman, a military ruler-turned-politician.
Zia has been in the old jailhouse on Nazimuddin Road, Dhaka after she was convicted in the case.
The court had also sentenced Khaleda’s elder son Tarique Rahman, now in the UK, and four others to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment each, and fined them a total of 2.10 crore taka, saying that all the convicts have to pay the fine in equal amounts. The High Court had on March 12 granted an interim bail to Zia.
Later, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the government challenged the High Court order, taking their appeals to the Appellate Division.