Jailed Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson Khaleda Zia on Wednesday said that there was no justice as she appeared in the makeshift courtroom inside the old Dhaka Central Jail on Najimuddin Road amid tight security.
‘There is no justice here. Punish me as much as you want, but I cannot appear here [in the court] frequently as I am sick,’ the former prime minister told the court wiping her eyes with a white tissue.
In a wheelchair and escorted by a group of female jail and police officials, Khaleda attended a 30-minute hearing in the Zia Charitable Trust graft case in the special judge Md Akhteruzzaman’s makeshift court in the old jail.
It was the first appearance of Khaleda in the court after February 8, when the same court jailed her for five years in Zia Orphanage Trust graft case.
In a pink sari and limbs covered with a white shawl, Khaleda, along with her personal aide Fatema Begum, was cordoned by the police officials in the packed courtroom.
Entering the court, Khaleda first spoke to Dhaka Bar Association president Golam Mustafa Khan, who told her that he appeared in the court as an observer on request from the prosecution.
Golam Mustafa told the court that Khaleda’s lawyers were not aware of the new courtroom and they went to the old one at Bakhshibazar Alia Madrassah playground, about a kilometre off the new court.
Anti-Corruption Commission prosecutor Musharraf Hossain Kajol said that the information of relocation of the courtroom was properly conveyed to defence counsel, and a copy of the gazette notification on the new courtroom was sent to Khaleda’s lawyer Sanaullah Miah Tuesday night.
Golam Mustafa told the court that there was a communication gap over sharing the information about the courtroom relocation. How could the defence lawyers sit in the tiny courtroom where journalists were already seen standing, he asked and urged the court to adjourn the proceedings until a suitable date.
The court then allowed Khaleda to say few words.
‘My hands are not working properly and legs are not performing. I am not getting proper treatment. I cannot sit here in this way,’ she told the court.
After hearing her appeal, the judge set September 12-13 for the next hearing.
As the court left the dais, Khaleda was being taken back too. She was heard reiterating, ‘There is no justice here. I am not sure whether I can appear on September 12.’
Guarded by cops, she also said, ‘Decision of setting up the court here was taken seven days ago but why my lawyers could not come to the court? My lawyers AJ Muhummad Ali and Abdur Rezzaque Khan were not allowed to come here.’
As she was saying these in the courtroom, the security personnel were trying to get her into the jail but she asked wardens to stop the wheelchair and began talking to her lawyers.
While leaving the courtroom, Khaleda told reporters, ‘None of my senior lawyers are present in the court. They were not properly notified.’
She said that she was too sick to move even her hands. She uncovered the left arm, which appeared bent and shaking.
Khaleda was taken back to the jail again escorted by the prison officials. She appeared at the court at about 12:15pm and left at about 12:45pm.
Since the morning, security arrangement around the old prison was tightened, and cops restricted traffic there.
Only police and members of different intelligence agencies, prosecutors and journalists were seen at the courtroom set up inside the jail, and everyone but the law enforcers had to drop their mobile phones at the entrance. A photographer from Dhaka Metropolitan Police was seen capturing photo of whoever entering the courtroom at former administrative building of the jail.
Before Khaleda appeared before the court, her lawyers were seen in the previous courtroom at Alia Madrassah playground.
‘We got no notice over the relocation, so we are waiting for the judge here,’ said defence lawyer Aminul Islam.
The lawyers waited until noon and then left the madrassah playground.
In a gazette on Tuesday, the government announced the relocation of the makeshift courtroom to the old jail for holding trial of Khaleda as she had been staying there since February 8.
Section 352 of the Code of Criminal Procedure stipulates, ‘The place in which any criminal court is held for the purpose of inquiring into or trying any offence shall be deemed an open court, to which the public generally may have access, so far as the same can conveniently contain them: Provided that the presiding judge or magistrate may, if he thinks fit, order at any stage of any inquiry into, or trial of, any particular case, that the public generally, or any particular person, shall not have access to, or be or remain in, the room or building used by the court.’
Dhaka metropolitan public prosecutor Abdullah Abu said that only journalists, lawyers and law enforcers were allowed inside the court.
Prosecutor Musharraf Hossain Kajol, however, claimed that it was an open court and public even ‘your [reporters] family members can witness the trial.’
On August 8, 2011, the Anti-Corruption Commission filed the case with Tejgaon police station accusing four people, including Khaleda, of abusing power in raising funds for the trust from unknown sources.
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