Dhaka, Bangladesh
Khaleda's imprisonment doubled to 10yrs

Appeals in Orphanage case

Khaleda's imprisonment doubled to 10yrs

BNP lawyers to boycott court today, activists swing into protest

News Desk An ongoing five-year prison term former prime minister Khaleda Zia serving was Tuesday doubled to ten years, a day after her another conviction, stirring legal parleys over her electoral destiny. Attorney-General Mahbubey Alam said Khaleda, also the BNP chairperson, cannot participate in the upcoming national elections until her sentence in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case is cancelled. "Until her sentence is cancelled, she can't participate in the election. If the sentenced is suspended, she might escape serving jail term but can't join the polls," the chief law officer told reporters at his office as the latest verdict came. Both the incumbent and the immediate-past law ministers-Adv Anisul Haque and Barrister Sahfique Ahmed-differed on the question of ineligibility. They hold the view that if her appeals are accepted and bails granted, she would be able to contest the polls, now close by. The High Court (HC) Tuesday extended her jail term in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case to 10 years from five years. An HC bench comprising Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Md Mostafizur Rahman passed the order. The HC also upheld 10-year jail term of two other convicts-Kazi Solimul Haque Kamal and Sarfuddin Ahmed. On Monday, the HC bench fixed Tuesday to deliver its verdict on four petitions filed over lower court's verdict sentencing Khaleda Zia and two others in the case. Khaleda's lawyers had petitioned for her acquittal in an appeal, while the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) pleaded for extending her jail term to life-term imprisonment. While talking to reporters, ACC lawyer Advocate Khurshid Alam Khan said, "Now there's no chance for the BNP chief to contest the next general election." Earlier on Monday morning, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court rejected a petition filed by the BNP chief seeking time extension for disposal of the appeal petition and another one seeking deposition by more witnesses in the graft case, directing disposal of the appeal by October 31. The BNP chief filed a petition challenging the court verdict sentencing her to five years' imprisonment in the graft case. The ACC filed a revision appeal seeking her sentence to be extended to life imprisonment. On February 8, the Dhaka Special Court-5 convicted the former Prime Minister and BNP chairperson and sentenced her to five years' imprisonment in the graft case and five other accused in the case, including her son and BNP senior vice-chairman Tarique Rahman, who were sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment each. Khaleda secured four months' bail from the High Court in the case on March 12. Khaleda filed the petition with the High Court against her sentence on February 19, while two more convicts-Kazi Solimul Haque Kamal and Sarfuddin Ahmed-also appealed against their sentences. The ailing BNP chief is now undergoing medical treatment at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU). Mentioning that there are two Supreme Court verdicts on whether Khaleda Zia can participate in the next general election or not, Law Minister Anisul Huq said the court would now decide the fate of the BNP chairperson. "As per the constitution, if a person is sentenced for more than two years for moral turpitude, he/she can't contest national elections in five years after serving the jail terms," he said. The Law Minister came up with the remarks after inaugurating a four-storey District Registration Complex at Kayempur in Narayanganj. The minister continued: "It was mentioned in one of the Supreme Court verdicts that she (Khaleda) can join the polls if the sentence is suspended in appeal while in another split verdict one judge said she can take part in the election and the other said no. So, the court will finally decide it." On Monday, a Dhaka court sentenced her and three others to seven years' rigorous imprisonment each in the much-talked-about Zia Charitable Trust corruption case. Replying to a query about the dialogue between Awami League and Jatiya Oikya Front leaders, the Law Minister said, "The Prime Minister has taken a positive decision for the continuation of democracy and there's no international pressure in this regard." Attorney-General Mahbubey Alam said she cannot participate in the upcoming national election until her sentence in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case is cancelled. "Until her sentence is cancelled, she can't participate in the election. If the sentenced is suspended, she might escape serving jail term but can't join the polls," he said while talking to reporters at his office. He said the verdict in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case is a massage for all politicians. "This verdict certainly bears a sign that if anyone commits crime while in power, he/she can't remain above the law." About BNP allegation that the verdict is 'one-sided and meant' for keeping Khaleda away from the national elections, Mahbubey described it as "hollow". He, however, said the BNP chief can appeal with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court within 30 days against the High Court judgment. Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan said Khaleda's bail will automatically be cancelled as the HC rejected her three petitions. Khaleda secured four months' bail from the High Court in the case on March 12. (Inputs taken from UNB, media reports)

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