Khaleda jailed for 5 years

Court sentences Tarique, four others to rigorous imprisonment for 10 years, fines Tk 2.10cr each

Muktadir Rashid  | Published: 01:05, Feb 09,2018 | Updated: 01:03, Feb 09,2018

 
 
Khaleda Zia

BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia in on a SUV, following her conviction, heads for the former central jail in the Old Town of Dhaka on Thursday. — New Age photo

The Dhaka Special Judge’s Court-5 on Thursday jailed Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson Khaleda Zia for five years and her eldest son Tarique Rahman and four others for 10 years.
Judge Md Akhtaruzzaman pronounced the verdict convicting the six of breach of trust in the Zia Orphanage Trust case filed on July 3, 2008 during the military-controlled interim regime.
Amid tight security in and around the makeshift courtroom at Bakhshibazar, the court also fined Tarique, his cousin Moninur Rahman, former BNP lawmaker Qazi Saleemul Huq, businessman Sharfuddin Ahmed and former principal secretary Kamal Uddin Siddique Tk 2.10 crore each.
The judge read out the gist of the 632-page verdict in about 15 minutes in the courtroom packed with police and intelligence officials in plainclothes and uniform, defence and prosecution lawyers, senior BNP leaders and journalists.
At the outset, the judge asked Khaleda’s private security to leave her.
Akhtaruzzaman said 32 prosecution witnesses and four defence witnesses were
examined.
The court sentenced all accused but Khaleda to rigorous imprisonment for 10 years.
The judge concluded, ‘Considering her social status and physical condition, she [Khaleda] is sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for five years.’
The judge said that 11 points, including whether the accused breached trust, whether Tk 2.10 crore was misappropriated and whether the charges were proved beyond reasonable doubts, were examined during the trial.
Khaleda in an off-white sari sat in front of the dais and Saleemul and Sharfuddin were in the dock during the pronouncement of verdict while Tarique, Kamal Uddin and Mominur Rahman were tried in their absence.
As soon as the verdict was pronounced, Khaleda was cordoned off by a platoon of female cops while her lawyers and leaders were also separated.
Cops later allowed a few senior lawyers to talk to Khaleda.
With heavy protection, Khaleda was moved to a makeshift jail inside former Dhaka Central Jail while Saleemul and Sharfuddin, who were in jail since October 2017, were taken to Central Jail in Keraniganj.
The court allowed a domestic aid of Khaleda to stay with her in the jail at the former administrative building. Khaleda’s lawyers handed over to jail authorities some personal belongings, which she carried to the court.
The judge mentioned the major developments of the case and trial proceedings, claiming that charges were read out to Khaleda and Saleemul and Shafuddin before the indictment, although Special Judge’s Court-3 judge Bashudev Roy on March 19, 2014 framed charges without reading out the charges to the accused as required by the law.
Amid a debate, Bashudev on September 22, 2014 began trial, the defence counsels expressed no confidence in the court, law and justice division’s joint secretary Abu Ahmed Jamadar replaced Bashudev in December 2014 and the proceeding started again.
In May 2017, the High Court accepted a petition of Khaleda to change the court and assigned the trial in the case to the court of Md Akhtaruzzaman.
Rejecting the Thursday verdict, BNP announced two-day countrywide protests for today and Saturday. Sporadic clashes were reported in Dhaka and many districts, including Chittagong, Lakhsmipur and Sylhet.
At a press conference, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said that Khaleda had asked them to go for no violent movement, but peaceful protests.
The ruling Awami League brought out victory processions after the verdict.
The police continued arresting BNP leaders and activists, and immediately after the verdict the police arrested Khaleda’s special assistant Shamsur Rahman, better known as Shimul Biswas, on the court premises.
From the morning on Thursday, the city took apparently a hartal-like look and anyone had to cross seven checkpoints to enter the courtroom.
At about 9:15am, Dhaka Metropolitan Police commissioner Asaduzzaman Miah inspected the security arrangement and barred a number of Khaleda’s lawyers including Taherul Islam Tauhid from getting in the courtroom.
The DMP chief threatened the lawyers saying, ‘Face will be changed if you try to create any trouble here.’
With a convoy, the judge came to the court premises at about 10:15am.
At about 1:50pm, Khaleda, also former prime minister, along with her domestic help, reached the court. The court started pronouncing the verdict at about 2:10pm.
Khaleda’s lawyer Khandaker Mahbub Hossain said that justice was not done and the court only found them guilty of breach of trust which was not related to misappropriation of any fund.
Anti-Corruption Commission prosecutor Musharraf Hossain Kajol said that his team was disappointed as the accused were not given the highest punishment prescribed by the law.
Over 4,500 leaders and organisers were arrested after the court on January 25 set Thursday for the pronouncement of the verdict.
In August 2009, Anti-Corruption Commission assistant director Harun-or-Rashid submitted the charge sheet in the case.
On March 19, 2014, Special Judge’s Court-3 judge Bashudev Roy framed charges against the five without reading out the charges as required by the law.
Amid a debate, Bashudev on September 22, 2014 began trial and the defence counsels expressed no confidence in the court.
In December 2014, the law and justice division’s joint secretary Abu Ahmed Jamadar replaced Bashudev and the proceeding started again.
In May 2017, the High Court accepted a petition of Khaleda to change the court and assigned the trial in the case to the court of Md Akhtaruzzaman.
Khaleda is now facing 35 more cases. Four graft cases were filed until Awami League assumed in 2009 while the rest of the cases, including on charge of sedition, political violence and setting vehicles on fire, were filed in the past eight years.
The trial in the case ended after hearings spreading 236 working days, including 16 days for closing arguments by both the prosecution and defence.
Both contested in 2008 polls and Hasina became the prime minister.
Khaleda’s trial came to an end within two weeks after prime minister Sheikh Hasina announced in a televised speech on January 12 that parliamentary elections would be held in December.
Article 66(2)(d) of the constitution stipulates, ‘A person shall be disqualified for election as, or for being, a member of parliament who has been, on conviction for a criminal offence involving moral turpitude, sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than two years, unless a period of five years has elapsed since his release.’
Law minister Anisul Huq said in his instant reaction that the verdict had proved that no one was above law. ‘She will have the chance to appeal against the verdict after getting a certified copy of it,’ he told reporters at the ministry.
‘She is the leader of a major political party. She was the prime minister for two terms. Considering her social status and age, she has been kept in the old jail. She will be entitled to all facilities as per the Jail Code,’ home minister Asaduzzaman Khan told reporters at his ministry. 

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