Bangladesh court orders release of opposition leader Khaleda Zia

The BNP chief was jailed for five years on February 8 over the embezzlement of 21 million taka in foreign donations meant for the Zia Orphanage Trust named after her husband late Ziaur Rahman a military ruler-turned-politician. (Pho

The apex court also directed the High Court to dispose of by July 31 the hearing of Zia's appeal petition against her conviction and imprisonment in the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case which sent her to jail, they said.

"Both the appeals are dismissed", said a four-member Appellate Division bench headed by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, rejecting the appeals filed by the state and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) against the High Court order.

The top court of Bangladesh on Wednesday upheld the bail given to Bangladesh Nationalist Party Supremo and Former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia given by the High Court.

It was not immediately clear, however, when Zia would be released from the special prison in Dhaka where she is the only inmate.

Former prime minister Khaleda was sentenced to five years in jail on February 8 for embezzling donations meant for the orphanage.

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Court officials said a four-member bench of Supreme Courts Appellate Division headed by chief justice Syed Mahmud Hossain unanimously made a decision to grant bail to Zia, the chairperson of the Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), upholding a previous High Court order. "As the Appellate Division upheld the High Court order, it would be easy to get the bail in other cases".

Right after the pronouncement of the verdict, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam in his reaction said, "If a person secures bail in one case out of five then he or she has to remain behind bars until securing bail in all the remaining cases". It also sentenced other five accused, including Khaleda's elder son and BNP Acting Chairman Tarique Rahman, to 10-year imprisonment each. Therefore, she could not be granted bail on health grounds, he said.

On Khaleda's freedom from jail, BNP lawyer Moudud Ahmed said: "We have to try to seek bail in other cases for that". The High Court is the lower division of the Supreme Court.

This is unedited, unformatted feed from the Press Trust of India wire.

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