Bangladesh SC grants bail to ex-PM Khaleda Zia in corruption case

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The Appellate Division has upheld a High Court order granting bail to BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia in the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case. Two days later, the ACC and the state filed two leave-to-appeal petitions with the Appellate Division challenging her bail.

Zia and five others, including her son Tarique Rahman, were accused of embezzling 21 million takas (approximately Rs 1.6 crore) in foreign donations meant for the Zia Orphanage Trust, which was established during her rule between 2001 and 2006.

The Supreme Court had earlier suspended the lower court's decision to grant Zia bail, prompting her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to condemn the move as part of a campaign by Hasina to silence the opposition ahead of a looming national election.

After hearing arguments on Tuesday, the Appellate Division set Wednesday to deliver its order on the two petitions filed challenging Khaleda's bail granted by the High Court.

On March 19, the Appellate Division stayed Khaleda's bail until May 8 in the graft case in which she was convicted by the lower court.

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Dhaka Special Judge Court-5 on February 8 convicted Khaleda Zia and five others in Zia Orphanage Trust graft case. Therefore, she could not be granted bail on health grounds, he said.

She has since been kept at the old Dhaka central jail.

The court 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 Tk 2.10 crore, saying that all the convicts have to pay the fine in equal amounts. Zia, was jailed for five years on a corruption conviction.

ACC lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan told reporters that the Appellate Division has ordered the court to settle the appeal by July 31.

The BNP, the main opposition outside parliament, had alleged the trial was politically motivated to debar her from contesting elections, a charge denied by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasinas government.

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