Khaleda Zia’s counsels delayed her privileges in jail: Law Minister

Vastavam web: Khaleda Zia’s counsels were led more by their emotions than professional obligations which delayed her getting privileges she was entitled to as the former premier in the prison after being convicted in a graft case, Law Minister Anisul Huq said today.The 72-year-old three-time former prime minister and main opposition leader was on February sentenced to five years rigorous imprisonment by Dhaka’s Special Court in connection with the embezzlement of 21 million taka (about USD 250,000) in foreign donations meant for the Zia Orphanage Trust, named after her late husband Ziaur Rahman, a military ruler-turned-politician.Prison authorities accommodated Zia for three days in a refurbished abandoned office of a prison official in Dhaka s old central jail, which is now relocated on the outskirts of the capital, after she was awarded the sentence.

Four days after the verdict was delivered, the prison authorities received a court directive ordering the special division facilities for Zia and allow her personal domestic aide Fatema Begum to be inside the jail as her companion.”She suffered due to the faults of her ‘wise’ lawyers…should we take the responsibility for that,” Huq said but added that she was awarded the division status instantly after the defence lawyers filed the prayer in the court in line with the legal procedures.

Huq reiterated his earlier comments regarding the delay in issuing the certified copy of the judgement, saying it was entirely a court affair with government having no stake in the process but it could take them some time to obtain the 632-page document because of its length.”But the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina believes that none is above law,” he said. BNP supporters in the past several days staged non-violent street protests across the country, demanding the party chief s release.Legal experts say Zia s imprisonment would disqualify her from contesting the next general elections slated for December this year unless the Supreme Court comes up with a different direction during the appeal process.

The protests ahead of the verdict saw arrests of hundreds of BNP activists and mid ranking leaders but fears of more aggressive government actions visibly debarred the opposition to discard tougher street actions.BNP named Zia s convicted and fugitive son Tarique Rahman as the acting party chief after the verdict was delivered, a week after amending the party constitution which until then debarred any corrupt element with moral turpitude from being a party leader.

Several courts earlier declared him fugitive as Rahman preferred to live in London apparently to evade justice while he was convicted and jailed for 10 years in absentia on the same charges as Zia.The government earlier criticised BNP for installing him as the acting party chief while the law minister today called BNP leaders “shameless” as they amended the party constitution overnight to install a “fugitive criminal” as its highest leader.