Bangladesh Nationalist Party BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia’s counsel on Friday questioned the motive behind the government plea for inclusion of a retired Federal Bureau of Investigation agent and two Canadian police officials as witnesses in Niko graft case against her.
Khaleda’s lawyer Mahbub Uddin Khokon, also BNP joint secretary general, raised the question at a press conference at his law firm at Dhanmondi in Dhaka.
He said that the plea made by the attorney general was an act of abusing the office of the state’s chief law officer to malign Khaleda Zia and her son acting BNP chairman Tarique Rahman ahead of the 11th parliamentary elections scheduled for December 30.
Attorney general Mahbubey Alam told reporters at his residence Thursday evening that he requested the Dhaka Special Judge’s Court 9 to allow an FBI agent and two Royal Canadian Mounted Police officials to testify in the Niko graft case.
The attorney general claimed that investigations by FBI and Canadian police found involvement of ‘Hawa Bhaban’ in the alleged bribery in awarding Canadian oil and gas company Niko Resources Limited contract for gas exploration and production.
Judge Md Mahmoodul Kabir posted for December 9 the hearing on the government petition, he said.
Earlier on November 21, the same court fixed January 3, 2019 for the hearing on indictment in the case.
Mahbub Uddin Khokon said that there was no provision for inclusion of witnesses, not named in the charge sheet, in a case at this stage.
‘It’s an act of abuse of state’s law officer attorney general for political purpose when the election schedule has already been announced,’ he said.
Mahbub Uddin said that according to the affidavit the attorney general submitted to the court, Debra LaPrevotte Graffith retired as an FBI agent in 2015 and her ‘so called’ report on Niko investigation was prepared in 2018.
‘It’s just appointing lobbyists by the government to malign Khaleda Zia and Tarique Rahman,’ he said.
During army-backed interim regime in 2007, the Anti-Corruption Commission filed the Niko graft case with Tejgaon police station accusing Khaleda and nine others of abusing power to award a gas exploration and extraction deal to Niko during her tenure as prime minister.
NIKO gas exploration contract process began in 1997 during the then Awami League government of Sheikh Hasina, who was also prosecuted in another Niko graft case in 2007.
Her case was quashed by the High Court in 2010 after she came to power.
‘Both the cases (against Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia) were baseless and aimed at to implement ‘minus two formula’ to annihilate both Hasina and Khaleda from politics by the army-backed interim regime,’ Mahbub Uddin said.
‘But unfortunately, the case of Sheikh Hasina has been withdrawn and the case of Khaleda Zia is still going on with political motive,’ he said.
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