SC upholds Khaleda's bail order; immediate release 'unlikely'

The BNP chief was jailed for five years on February 8 over the embezzlement of 21 million taka in foreign donations meant for the Zia Orphanage Trust named after her husband late Ziaur Rahman a military ruler-turned-politician. (Pho

The BNP chief was jailed for five years on February 8 over the embezzlement of 21 million taka in foreign donations meant for the Zia Orphanage Trust named after her husband late Ziaur Rahman a military ruler-turned-politician. (Pho

Bangladesh's Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the release from detention of 72-year-old opposition leader Khaleda Zia after her lawyers argued she was unwell.

Court officials said a four-member bench of Supreme Courts Appellate Division headed by chief justice Syed Mahmud Hossain unanimously chose to grant bail to Zia, the chairperson of the Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), upholding a previous High Court order.

The HC on March 12 had granted bail to Khaleda, now in jail, in the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case.

"Both the appeals are dismissed", said a four-member Appellate Division bench headed by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, rejecting the appeals filed by the state and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) against the High Court order.

ACC lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan said they must take steps to settle the BNp chief's petition against her conviction in the case by July 31 as per the Appellate Division's direction.

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On 8 February this year, the Dhaka Special Court-5 convicted the former prime minister and sentenced her to five years' imprisonment in the graft case. The court had also sentenced Khaleda's elder son Tarique Rahman, now in the United Kingdom, and four others to 10 years' rigorous imprisonment each, and fined them a total of 2.1 crore taka, saying that all the convicts have to pay the fine in equal amounts.

Later, the apex court on March 19 stayed the bail until May 8. Therefore, she could not be granted bail on health grounds, he said.

Bangladesh law says anyone imprisoned for more than two years can not run for office for the next five years, but Law Minister Anisul Huq had said the final decision rests with the higher courts.

The bail, however, does not allow Khaleda to get freedom from jail so soon, as she is named as an arrestee in other cases, lawyers said. The conviction means that Zia, the archrival of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, can be barred from running in December elections.

This is unedited, unformatted feed from the Press Trust of India wire.

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