Dhaka – Bangladesh Nationalist Party Chief and former prime minister Khaleda Zia has been released more than two years after she was convicted over graft charges and sentenced to jail, official said on Wednesday.
Several thousand of her followers shouted slogans as she came out of the prison cell of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University at around 4 pm. Television footage showed the BNP chief boarded a Sport Utility Car after she was taken from the cell by a wheel chair.
She was taken to her Gulshan home in Dhaka. She was undergoing treatment for diabetic and arthritis with jail authorities supervising.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said Khaleda was allowed to get out of the prison as her jail term was suspended for six months with conditions that she would receive medical care at her Dhaka home and will not travel outside the country.
“As a sentenced prisoner she can’t be engaged in any political activities,” the minister said. She was released on humanitarian grounds after her family appealed for its considering her age and medical treatment.
She was in prison since February 2018, after a court sentenced her to five years in jail for misappropriating funds meant for orphans. The prison term was doubled by a higher court in October that year.
She was also sentenced to seven years in jail in October 2018 for raising money for a charity from unknown sources during her 2001-2006 tenure as prime minister.
The activists gathered at the hospital gate defying the governments order not to crowd at any place to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus that already killed five people in Bangladesh.
BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir was also seen requesting the activists not to crowd at the hospital considering the health related vulnerability of the party chief. But none was paying heeds. Some other gathered in front of the Khaleda’s residence and chanted the same slogans.
She has been suffering from diabetic and chronic arthritis and was shifted to hospital in April as her health condition deteriorated.
The BNP, her party fought in the court to secure her bail citing that Zia was seriously ill and she requires improved medical treatment abroad, but the court rejected petitions at least for four occasion in the last two years.
Law Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anisul Huq on Tuesday disclosed that the government granted her family’s application for release on humanitarian ground.