Politicians excepting those form the ruling Awami League-led alliance on Wednesday opposed the trial of jailed Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson Khaleda Zia in a makeshift court courtroom at the old Dhaka Central Jail.
AL allies, however, said that there was no problem in such trials.
Politicians out of the alliances said that trial inside jail would create question among people about credibility and fairness of the trial.
Opposition BNP-led alliance leaders said that the government made the decision violating the constitution and the law out of jealousy over Khaleda’s popularity to keep her out of national polls due by January 2019.
Ruling Awami League-led alliance leaders said that court could decide where the trial would take place and it might have taken decision considering health condition of jailed Khaleda.
Khaleda on Wednesday appeared before the new makeshift courtroom inside the old Dhaka Central Jail on Najimuddin Road amid tight security as the government on Tuesday set up the court.
Law minister Anisul Huq said that they took the decision considering Khaleda’s security.
Khaleda has been at the jail since February 8, when the Dhaka Special Judge’s Court-5 jailed the former prime minister for five years in Shaheed Ziaur Rahman Orphanage Trust graft case.
Socialist Party of Bangladesh general secretary Khalequzzaman said that people expected a fair trial of everyone for the rule of law.
‘If there is any political interference in the trial to take revenge on opponents, people lose their confidence in that court. It also affects political culture and put negative impact on political sphere,’ he said.
‘No trials, especially against important people, should be questionable. Trials must take place in transparent manner following the courses of law, he contended.
‘Court gives verdicts as per the laws while jail is the place of punishment and correction. When characters of court and jail are mixed, it can create question among the people,’ he said.
Politicians said they could remember at least three precedence of trial in jail or off limiting public and all were conducted in martial law regimes.
Bangladesh’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the first to face such trial in the Agartala Conspiracy Case in 1968 during the martial law regime of Ayub Khan. Although Sheikh Mujib and 34 other accuse were kept in the Dhaka Central Jail, they were moved to the courtroom at Dhaka cantonment for the trial. Pakistani military ruler Yahya Khan held a secret trial of Sheikh Mujib inside Lyallpur jail in Pakistan during the 1971 Liberation War.
Colonel Abu Taher, a decorated war hero, was tried inside Dhaka Central Jail in 1976 during the martial law of General Ziaur Rahman.
‘Martial law is jungle law. There should be difference between a regular government and military dictatorship,’ Khalequzzaman said.
Communist Party of Bangladesh president Mujahidul Islam Selim said that he was not interested to comment as it was a legal matter.
‘Conflicts between two large parties are taking the country towards destruction. Their conflicts have reached such a level that they can knife their opponents’ throat if needed,’ he said.
‘When they remain in opposition they talks in favour of people but when they are in power they works against the people. It will be good for people if both parties remain in opposition,’ he added.
Syed Muhammad Ibrahim, chairman of Bangladesh Kalyan Party, a party of the BNP-led alliance, protested against Khleda’s trial in jail. ‘Some legal experts are saying it contravenes the constitution,’ he said.
‘We are suspecting that it has relation with whether Begum Zia can take part in the elections or not,’ he said.
‘It is hasty activities and many are saying it is unprecedented,’ he added.
There are chances that the trial will take beyond the reach of public and journalists. They will cite security grounds and lack of space to bar people and journalists, he said.
‘The government is following footsteps of autocrats as they are afraid of popularity of Khaleda Zia. Why a government that claims to be democratic would be afraid of a democratic leader,’ he said.
BNP ally Liberal Democratic Party chairman Oli Ahmed refused to comment over the phone.
Awami League ally Workers Party of Bangladesh general secretary Fazle Hossain Badshah claimed that there were provisions in the jail code for setting up court in jail.
‘It is completely legal matter. I think the step was taken on Khaleda Zia’s health ground,’ he said.
‘Still we can ask for government explanation about setting up such court,’ he added.
Asked about his reaction on the trial inside jail as all previous instances of such trial took place during martial law regimes, Fazle Hossain avoided any straight answer. He said, ‘There is also precedence that 300-400 soldiers were executed after holding a five-minute court martial during Zaiur Rahman’s rule.’
AL ally Bangladesh Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal president Sharif Nurul Ambia said that they would make no comment of the trial.
Trial of Abu Taher was held in special military court during the martial law. The trial was plotted and not transparent, he said.
‘Government and court can take decision. If the court follows the legal procedure properly then there is no question,’ he said.
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