Zia’s graft trial to begin on Apr 21

March 20, 2014 - 10:20:46 am
DHAKA: Bangladesh opposition leader Khaleda Zia was ordered yesterday to stand trial over charges that she and her associates embezzled more than $650,000 in a case that could see her jailed for life.

The two-time former premier will go on trial from April 21, according to lawyers at a hearing of a special anti-corruption court in Dhaka which was held only weeks after her arch rival Sheikh Hasina was re-elected.

Zia’s centre-right Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has vowed to topple Hasina’s Awami League government after boycotting the January 5 election which it denounced as a farce.

BNP deputy leader Falkrul Islam Alamgir and four other senior party figures were sent to jail last week for violence in the run-up to the January contest which was the bloodiest in Bangladesh’s short history.

Prosecutors say Zia and three of her co-accused siphoned off 31.5 million taka (about $400,000) from a charitable trust named after her late husband Ziaur Rahman, a former president who was assassinated in 1981.

She is also accused of leading a group of five people, including her eldest son Tarique Rahman, in embezzling 21.5 million taka ($270,000), funds which were meant to go to orphanage set up in memory of her late husband, prosecutor Mosharraf Hossain told AFP. The charges date back to Zia’s last term as prime minister from 2001-06 and can carry a life sentence, Hossain added. 

Zia’s supporters and lawyers staged noisy protests at the court complex in Dhaka’s Old City as judge Basudev Roy ordered a clerk to read out the charges against the 69-year-old Zia, who was present and dressed in a traditional silk sari. AFP