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Bangladesh court orders Khaleda Zia's trial in graft cases

Wednesday, 23 April 2014 - 7:06pm IST | Place: DHAKA | Agency: PTI

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A top Bangladesh court today ruled that opposition leader Khaleda Zia should stand trial in graft cases involving over $6,50,000 that could see her jailed for life.

The High Court summarily rejected two petitions filed by former two-time premier challenging her indictment linked to Zia Orphanage Trust and Zia Charitable Trust corruption cases.

The bench of Justices Borhanuddin and KM Kamrul Kader ruled after hearing the review petition filed on grounds that the charges were not framed "properly".

On March 19, a Dhaka court framed charges against the 68-year-old chief of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), her son Tarique Rahman and seven others in the cases filed by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

The court fixed May 21 for recording depositions of the witnesses.

Zia's lawyers have called the charges politically motivated aimed at destroying the main opposition party which has vowed to topple the government of her arch rival Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Expressing disappointment over today's ruling, Zia's lawyer Khandker Mahbub Hossain told reports that they would move appeal before the Appellate Division of Supreme Court challenging the High Court order, The Daily Star reported.

ACC's lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan said the High Court rejected Zia's petition as the lower court has framed charges properly. There is no legal bar for the lower court to record deposition of witnesses in the cases, he said.

In 2011, the ACC sued Zia and three others for siphoning off 31.5 million taka (about $ 4,00,000) from the Zia Charitable Trust named after her late husband Ziaur Rahman, a former president who was assassinated in 1981.

The BNP chief is also accused of leading a group of five persons, including her eldest son Rahman, in embezzling 21.5 million taka ($2,77,000), funds which were meant for the Zia Orphanage Trust, which reportedly came from a foreign bank.

The charges date back to Zia's last term as Prime Minister from 2001 to 2006 and can carry a life sentence, prosecutors have said.

Zia was indicted just weeks after the ruling Awami League came to power after the January 5 general election which was boycotted by BNP and its 18 opposition allies.

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