Bangladesh’s ex-PM gets time to face court over graft charges

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Dhaka
  • Updated: Jun 02, 2016 18:19 IST
Former Bangladeshi Prime Minister Khaleda Zia waves as she leaves after a court appearance in Dhaka on Thursday. (AP)

A special court in Bangladesh on Thursday asked former prime minister Khaleda Zia to appear before it on June 23 for hearing in a graft case, after accepting her request for more time.

If convicted, Khaleda could be barred from contesting national polls, due in 2019.

The case involves charges of embezzlement to the tune of $400,000 in setting up a charity--Zia Charitable Trust-- named after her late husband and former President Ziaur Rahman in 2001-2006.

The opposition leader appeared as directed by special court judge Abu Ahmed Jamader for her “self defence” in the case, which is politically crucial for her and her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

She did not take part in the hearing, and sought a new date in the trial court as she was separately seeking intervention of the Supreme Court for her case to be scrapped.

The special court has been dealing with the case, but Khaleda challenged its legality in the High Court, which rejected her appeal in April, and gave a go-ahead for prosecuting her.

Khaleda wanted the case to be scrapped, saying that it has legal weaknesses and is politically motivated. The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has rejected the allegation.

Later she moved the Supreme Court, seeking cancellation of the trial, which involves eight other people including a close aide during her last premiership.

On Thursday, prosecution wanted the court to continue with the day’s proceedings.

Prosecutor Mosharraf Hossain Kajol said they opposed the move for time extension but the judge accepted it.

Thirty-two prosecution witnesses have given their statement against Khaleda. Defence counsels argued that the court should allow more time as Khaleda’s appeal has remained pending with the Supreme Court.

The country’s official Anti-corruption Commission filed the case against Khaleda and others in 2011, accusing them of abuse of power in setting up the trust and the prosecution said the money came from unknown sources.

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