Bangladeshi opposition leader and former premier Khaleda Zia got bail in 10 cases involving charges of arson and sedition on Wednesday.
The decision came after Zia appeared in the court of metropolitan sessions judge Kamrul Hossain Mollah amid tight security and sought bail.
The sedition charge was linked to Zia’s comments on the number of people killed during the liberation war against Pakistan. A lawyer filed a case against her, accusing her of distorting history by making controversial remarks about the number of dead.
Bangladesh says Pakistani soldiers, aided by local collaborators, killed three million people during the war. The figure was used even during Zia’s premiership in 1991-1996 and 2001-2006.
The judge took the sedition charge against her into cognisance but granted bail to her after the defence argued the case was politically motivated. The court also awarded bail in nine other cases of arson, said prosecution lawyer Abdullah Abu.
The court set October 10 for the next hearing of the cases.
She also appeared in two graft cases involving a coal mine project and a gas field contract. New dates were fixed for hearing those cases.
Zia has been trying to revive her Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s (BNP) strength and last Saturday announced a 592-strong new central committee to build an effective anti-government movement.
The BNP is under pressure in the face of official action for its alleged subversive activities in recent years to remove Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government.
The cases against Zia are seen by her supporters as a major political tool to weaken the BNP, which has a strong partnership with the Jamaat-e-Islami party. The Jamaat too is under severe pressure as its top leadership has been convicted of war crimes committed during the 1971 independence war.