Dhaka: Bangladesh's imprisoned Opposition leader has been barred from contesting next month's general election against her arch-rival Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the country's attorney general said on Wednesday.
Khaleda Zia is serving 10 years for graft but her supporters, who have appealed the charges, had clung to hopes the 73-year-old would be acquitted before the 30 December poll.
But the Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a ruling from a lower court that nobody sentenced to more than two years jail or awaiting appeals could run for election.
Zia's supporters had unsuccessfully appealed that decision by the high court on Tuesday.
"Following this judgment, she cannot take part in the elections," Attorney General Mahbubey Alam told AFP on Wednesday.
The Bangladesh National Party (BNP), the Opposition movement Zia leads from behind bars, had protested the court's ruling as a "reflection of the government's wishes".
"This ruling is not acceptable to us at all. We are aggrieved and are protesting it strongly," said BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.
Zia had hoped to contest three parliamentary seats despite being incarcerated in Dhaka on corruption charges the BNP says were designed to keep her from challenging Hasina.
Bangladesh has been led by either Zia or Hasina since the 1990s and the two powerful women have turned from close allies to fierce foes.
Just a month from the polls the BNP has not announced an alternative candidate to run against Hasina, who is seeking a third-consecutive term in office.
She was elected uncontested in 2014 after the BNP boycotted the ballot, saying it was not free and fair and rigged against Zia.
The Opposition has demanded Hasina stand down ahead of the election and allow a caretaker government to oversee the country, but the prime minister has refused.
The BNP has accused her ruling Awami League party of detaining 5,000 opposition activists ahead of the December poll to cripple the party's grassroots base.
Zia's son, a potential heir to the BNP throne, was sentenced in absentia to life behind bars in October. He lives in exile in London.
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Updated Date: Nov 28, 2018 23:43:57 IST