Bangladesh court seeks life for former prime minister Khaleda Zia

Bangladesh's main opposition leader and the chairperson of Bangladesh Nationalist Party, Khaleda Zia (L), leaves a court in Dhaka on December 28, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Bangladeshi prosecutors say they have demanded life sentence for two-time former prime minister Khaleda Zia, a move that could spark fresh unrest in the politically-volatile Muslim country.
Lead prosecutor Mosharraf Hossain Kazal of a special anti-corruption court hoped Thursday after the final arguments that Zia and her son Tarique Rahman would be sentenced to life in jail.
“We hope all the accused of this case will be sentenced to life in jail,” said Kazal, adding that a verdict was due on February 8.
If convicted, Zia, who is the head of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), would be banned from contesting a national election this year. She is the fiercest opponent of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and many see the charges against her as politically-motivated.
Lawyer Moudud Ahmed, a former justice minister, said Hasina was clearly seeking to exclude Zia and her family from politics.
“She will be acquitted. It is a case of no evidence,” said Ahmed, adding, “It is not a criminal case. It is a political case.”
Zia and Rahman, who lives in exile in London, are accused of stealing some 21 million taka ($252,000) from a trust created for an orphanage. Rahman is also accused in a separate case of having a role in an attack in 2004 that injured Hasina. He was also convicted of money laundering in 2016.
Zia has designated the dozens of charges against her family, which ruled Bangladesh for 15 years, as politically-motivated.
Many fear the convictions against Zia could spark fresh nationwide unrest as her followers in the BNP would stage protests like those in 2014 and 2015 that left nearly 200 people dead.
The BNP boycotted elections in 2014, but has said that it would take part in this year’s vote.