Khaleda Zia suffers another setback as her 17-year prison term poses big hurdle for contesting in upcoming polls
Dhaka: Bangladesh's ailing former prime minister Khaleda Zia cannot contest the upcoming parliamentary election unless the 17-year jail term awarded to her in two separate graft cases is terminated, attorney-general Mahbubey Alam said on Tuesday.
Zia suffered a setback on Tuesday when the Bangladesh high court here doubled her jail term to 10 years in a corruption case. The verdict came a day after the 73-year-old leader of the Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was sentenced to seven years in prison in another graft case. After the latest verdict, attorney general Alam said Khaleda would be barred from taking part in the general election.
"Khaleda Zia is the main accused in the case. But the trial court sentenced her to five years in prison. Based on evidence, the high court has extended the sentence to 10 years," Alam said.
"She is convicted in the case, which means she cannot take part in the election, unless the sentence is terminated or suspended," he told bdnews24.com.
Asked how come some people participated in the polls while taking advantage of their suspended jail sentences, Alam said they exploited the legal loopholes.
"Even if Khaleda Zia's sentence is suspended, she will be freed from jail at best, but she will not be able to participate in the election," he said.
Bangladesh is set to hold general elections before a January 5 deadline, although the exact dates have not yet been announced. Expressing his satisfaction over the latest verdict, Alam said, "today's verdict is a warning signal for the abuse of power by anyone, especially for politicians". On Monday, Zia was sentenced for embezzling millions from the Zia Charitable Trust.
She faces dozens of separate charges related to violence and corruption that her lawyers insist are baseless. She had recently complained to the court that she was losing feeling in her hand and in a leg. On October 6, she was taken to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University hospital, where she is currently receiving treatment.
Tuesday's verdict is crucial as it came ahead of the parliamentary elections in December. Zia's party had boycotted the 2014 elections. The BNP has vowed nationwide marches later Tuesday to protest the verdict.
The latest court ruling deals a crushing blow to Zia, who was hoping of running against incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in elections.
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