Dhaka – The High Court on Tuesday raised the jail term for former Bangladeshi prime minister Khaleda Zia to 10 years from five years awarded by a lower court for swindling funds intended for orphans.
The two-judge panel of the court comprising Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Md Mostafizur Rahman passed the judgment rejecting Khaleda’s petition for acquittal in Zia Orphanage Trust graft case, prosecution lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan told reporters.
The defence lawyers, who filed the petition seeking Khaleda’s acquittal, did not turn up to the court.
The prosecution called the court to review the verdict in the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case and enhance the prison term for Zia, the head of Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
The court also rejected defence’s petition for acquittal of the five other convicts and upheld the 10 years jail term for them, including Zia’s son Tarique Rahman, exiled in London, Khan said.
Khaleda has been in Dhaka’s Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medial University since her health began to deteriorate in prison.
The 73-year old politician had been in Dhaka Central Jail since the court in February sentenced her to five years imprisonment for misappropriating funds intended for an orphanage.
Her counsels petitioned for her release while the prosecution appealed for enhancement of her jail term to life after the trial court on February 8 awarded the punishment.
Khaleda was convicted of swindling 21 million taka (252,203 dollars) to personal accounts from Zia Orphanage Trust, a charity named after Zia’s slain husband Ziaur Rahman, during her 1991-1996 tenure.
The High Court’s decision came barely a week ahead of Bangladesh’s election commission to announce schedule for national elections, due by December. The prosecution lawyers said the chances of Khaleda’s joining election became slim with the conviction as per the constitutional provisions.
She may not contest the polls unless the Supreme Court scraps her conviction in corruption.
A Dhaka court on Monday sentenced the 73 year-old politician to seven years in prison for illegally raising funds using her office’s influence for another charity.
She was convicted of misuse of power and raising 31.5 million taka from unknown sources for Zia Charitable Trust, the charity, during her 2001-2006 tenure as prime minister.