DHAKA: Violent protests have taken place across Bangladesh after former prime minister and opposition leader Khaleda Zia was sentenced to five years in jail.
She was found guilty of embezzling money meant for an orphanage, a charge she had consistently dismissed as politically motivated.
The Bangladesh Police have detained at least 282 leaders and activists of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its political alliance Jamaat-e-Islami who took to the streets in Chittagong, Brahmanbaria, Chandpur, Gaibandha and Mymensingh denouncing the verdict against their party chief Khaleda Zia, the Daily Star reported.
Her eldest son and Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s (BNP) Vice-Chairman Tarique Rahman and four others were sentenced to at least 10 years with a fine of 2.10 crore Bangladeshi takas (Tk).
The verdict, given by a special court judge, Mohammad Akhtaruzzaman said that Khaleda’s jail term was being kept short due to “her health and social status.”
According to prosecution sources, Khaleda will be kept at the old Dhaka Central Jail at Nazimuddin Road in southern Dhaka.
Meanwhile, two others accused in the case were already taken to the special court earlier in the day. The Anti-Corruption Commission filed a case with Ramna Police Station, accusing six persons including Khaleda and her son Tarique.
The other accused include- former lawmaker Kazi Salim Haque, businessman Sharfuddin Ahmed, Khaleda’s former principal secretary Kamal Uddin Siddiqui and Momenur Rahman, who is the nephew of the BNP’s late founder and Khaleda’s husband, Ziaur Rahman. Out of them, Kamal and Momenur are still absconding.
Prior to the verdict, BNP supporters had clashed with the police, who then fired tear gas shells to disperse the crowd.
The Bangladeshi capital had observed a total shutdown, in anticipation of the reaction of the verdict. Security forces were beefed up across the city, including in sensitive areas.
According to a report, in July 2008, Bangladesh’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) filed the case against six people, including Khaleda and her eldest son Tarique Rahman, for allegedly misusing Tk 2.1 crore that had come as grants for orphans from a foreign bank.
Three years later, in addition to this, the anti-graft body accused the BNP leader and three others of misappropriating Tk 3.15 crore from the Zia Charitable Trust Fund, the report said.