In a major jolt to Bangladesh's former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, a high court on Thursday ordered trial against her in a corruption case involving a contract for a coal mine during her tenure after quashing the opposition leader's plea to scrap the case.
The high court dismissed Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chairperson's petition and ordered that she will have to face trial in the Burupukuria coal mine graft case filed by the country's Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) in 2008.
The bench of Justice Md Nuruzzaman and Justice Abdur Rob lifted a freeze on the case's proceedings following 70-year-old Zia's petition filed seven years ago.
Khaleda and 15 others are accused of causing a loss of about taka 1.59 billion (over USD 20 million) to the state exchequer by signing a deal with the China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation (CMC) to operate, manage, and maintain the Barapukuria mine during her 2001-2006 premiership.
During the emergency rule under the past military-backed interim government, the anti-corruption commission filed the case on February 26, 2008 with Shahbagh police and the charge sheet was submitted on October 5 the same year.
After 11 days, the high court stayed proceedings for three months and issued a ruling asking why the case should not be scrapped. It was upheld by the Supreme Court, bringing the case to a standstill.
Khaleda secured a permanent bail on January 15, 2012. The final hearing on the high court order started after the ACC took initiative to revive the case earlier this year.
Zia's counsels on Thursday said they would appeal the decision in the Supreme Court, claiming that the case was politically motivated.
ACC lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan told PTI that they would now move to the trial court to resume the proceedings of the case. "There is no bar to go ahead with the case," Khan said.
Zia is currently being tried in several other graft cases after the Supreme Court rejected her pleas challenging her indictment in four cases including Zia Charitable Trust and Zia Orphanage Trust graft cases in which she is accused of misappropriating taka 52.5 million.
If found guilty in the charitable trust graft cases the former Prime Minister could get life term.