A Bangladesh court on Thursday sentenced Opposition leader and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia to five years in prison after convicting her of embezzling funds that were meant for an orphanage, The Daily Star reported. Both Zia and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina helped lead a popular uprising that foced Ershad, who took power as head of the army, to resign in 1990.
The 72-year-old Zia received the verdict Thursday in a courtroom in the capital, Dhaka.
Khaleda was given a shorter term while her son, Tarique Rahman, and four others were jailed for 10 years at the end of a case that lasted almost 10 years.
Bangladesh police clash with activists protesting a court's verdict against opposition leader Khaleda Zia in Dhaka, Feb. 8, 2018.
Police set up checkpoints at main entrances to Dhaka to prevent thousands of rural supporters of BNP and its allies from marching to the capital. "I am confident she will come out of jail".
As per reports, Zia was found guilty of siphoning off $252,000 from a trust created for an orphanage, a charge she had dismissed as politically motivated.
Although she has been named in 13 cases of corruption, violence and sedition and has put under house arrest several times this is the first sentence against the BNP leader. "As per the Constitution, a person can not contest the national polls if he or she is sentenced to jail for two years or more".
Police used tear gas against protesters who rallied in the streets, having defied an official ban on demonstrations.
The judge sentenced Khaleda to rigorous imprisonment and said the term was reduced due to "her health and social status".
Police fired rubber bullets at demonstrators in the northeastern city of Sylhet, spokesperson Abdul Wahab told AFP. She is also accused of leading a group of five people in embezzling another United States dollars 277,000 funds.
Khaleda Zia denies misusing worldwide funds donated to a charitable children's trust and said the charges against her are politically motivated.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, political observers in Dhaka said if Zia is not allowed to contest, it would be hard for the BNP to convert the popular support into a win. "No way we will accept this verdict", BNP Secretary General Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told Agence France-Presse. Zia was catapulted into Bangladeshi politics in the early 1980s when her husband former President Ziaur Rahman, was assassinated.
The opposition boycotted the previous general election in 2014, saying the government would not guarantee fair results.