Dhaka – A Dhaka court has sentenced former prime minister Khaleda Zia to seven years in jail for illegally raising money for Zia Charitable Trust, officials said on Monday.
Judge Akhteruzzaman of a special court handed down the sentence in absence of the 73-year old politician amid boycott by the defence lawyers at a courtroom set up in the old jail building in Dhaka’s Nazimuddin Road.
She was convicted of misuse of power and raising 31.5 million taka from unknown sources for the charity during her 2001-2006 tenure as prime minister.
Khaleda, the head of opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, was earlier in February sentenced to five years in prison for embezzling fund intended for an orphanage. She was convicted at that time for misappropriating 14.5 million taka of funds intended for Zia Orphanage Trust.
She has now been in Dhaka’s Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University as she was shifted to the health facility from Nazimuddin road prison following deterioration of her condition.
According to the verdict in the Zia Charitable corruption case, the money were illegally raised using influence of her office for the Trust, named after her slain husband Ziaur Rahman, prosecution lawyer Mosharraf Hossain Kajal said.
The court also handed down seven years of rigorous imprisonment to three others accused, including Khaleda’s political secretary Harris Chowdhury who has been absconding for years, for assisting the prime accused of the case to accumulate money illegally.
Each convict has to pay a financial penalty of 1 million taka in addition to their prison terms, according to the verdict. Otherwise they will have to serve an additional six months of imprisonment.
Former assistant private secretary of Chowdhury, Ziaul Islam Munna, and former Dhaka city mayor Sadeque Hossain Khoka’s assistant private secretary Monirul Islam Khan are the other convicts.
The court asked the authorities concern to confiscate a piece of land (2.2 bighas) purchased in Dhaka’s Kakrail by the ill-gotten money of the Trust.
Bangladesh’s Anti-Corruption Commission graft watchdog filed the corruption case against Zia and three others with Tejgaon police station in 2011 accusing.
In its observation, the court said raising money from unknown source using the highest position of the government is unwanted.