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23 February, 2018 00:00 00 AM
graft case verdict

HC accepts Khaleda appeal, stays fine

Hearing on bail plea Sunday
HC accepts 
Khaleda appeal, stays fine

The High Court (HC) yesterday accepted an appeal filed by the BNP chairperson, Khaleda Zia, challenging the trial court verdict sentencing her to five years’ imprisonment in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case. After staying a fine order against the BNP chief by the Dhaka Special Court-5 in the case, the HC bench fixed 2pm on Sunday for hearing on the bail petition filed by the BNP chief seeking bail in the case.

It also asked the special trial court to submit all documents of the case relating to the verdict within 15 days. In a jam-packed courtroom, the HC bench, comprising Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Shahidul Karim, came up with the orders after hearing two petitions.

On Tuesday, lawyers of the BNP chairperson had filed an appeal before the HC challenging her sentence in the graft case and the court on the same day fixed Thursday (yesterday) for hearing it. The other petition was also filed by them before the HC seeking bail in the case yesterday morning.

While the lawyers of the BNP chief appeared before the HC yesterday morning and submitted the 880-page bail petition, showing 31 grounds for granting her bail, the HC bench said it would hear the matter at 12 noon.

Since the morning, the courtroom of the HC bench was packed with lawyers and journalists. A large number of lawyers and reporters waited inside the courtroom for observing the court proceedings.

The judges of the HC bench entered the courtroom at 12.02pm and started the proceedings.

The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president, Advocate Zainul Abedin, one of the counsel for Khaleda, told the court that a number of senior lawyers were present inside the courtroom. But Advocate AJ Mohammad Ali will take part in the appeal hearing, he added. Taking part in the hearing, Advocate AJ Mohammad Ali told the court that the appeal was filed under Section 10 (1) of the Criminal Law Amendment Act.

“I prayed for acceptance of the appeal for hearing. The bail application will be filed after the appeal for hearing is accepted, as the lower court has convicted my client under Section 409 of the penal code,” Ali said.

The court wanted to know from Ali whether there is any extra prayer in the appeal with the prayer of admitting the appeal.

Ali informed the court that they have made normal prayers along with the appeal admission prayer.

After examining appeal documents, the court said that as per the Criminal Procedure of Code (CrPC), it could stay the sentence and fine. But the conviction cannot be stayed in accordance with the Criminal Law Amendment Act. “You (appellant) have sought the HC order to stay the conviction” it said.

“It has been included in the petition in line with the tradition. We will correct it later on,” Ali replied. After that, the HC passed a short order, saying: “We heard the appeal. Fine has been stayed till disposal of the appeal. The special court is directed to send the records within 15 days.”

AJ Mohammad Ali stood again with the bail petition and told the court that Khaleda Zia has been languishing in jail for the last 15 days. “We are seeking her bail as the court gave her a short sentence. She is eligible to get bail on consideration of her age and social status,” he said.

Opposing his submission, attorney general Mahbubey Alam told the court that the court has already accepted the appeal. “We received the bail petition copy of Khaleda Zia just this morning. The bail petition should be heard serially after including it into the daily cause list,” the chief law officer of the state said. The court informed the attorney general about the conviction of the BNP chief, saying that there is a provision to grant bail to the accused person, if he or she has been convicted for a short time.

“Besides, this case has merit and we want to hold the hearing on the bail petition after including the matter in the daily cause list,” the court said.

Later, Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan told the court that he did not take part in the appeal admission hearing. The court told him that there is no need to take part in the appeal admission hearing. “We will call you at the right time to take part in the hearing,” the court said.

Khan told the court: “As per Section 33 (5) of the Anti-Corruption Commission Act, we should get reasonable time from the court for preparing to take part in the hearing. We got the bail petition at 9.31am. So, we need reasonable time to go through the bail application containing 880 pages.”

AJ Mohammad Ali then told the court that usually the court grants bail to accused persons, if they get a short conviction from the lower court.

Echoing the same view, the court said there are many directives from the Appellate Division for granting bail to those who get short-time punishment. But all directives came from the apex court before the Special Power Act was applied, it added.  

“We are fixing 2pm on Sunday for hearing, thereby giving reasonable time to the parties as per the ACC law,” the court said.

On February 19, the BNP chief received the certified copy of the verdict in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case.

The 1,174-page full verdict said the former PM had transferred public funds amounting to Tk. 2,33,33,500 to the Zia Orphanage Trust and she could not avoid the responsibility.

As per the law, government funds for orphans must be spent for the welfare of orphans. But that did not happen, said the verdict.

The verdict observed that Khaleda, her son Tarique Rahman and four other accused in the case all benefited directly or indirectly by forming the Zia Orphanage Trust. As such, they had committed financial fraud at the state level. The verdict also asked the six accused to repay Tk. 2,10,71,643 in equal proportions within 60 days and deposit the money with the government exchequer. The lower court had sentenced Khaleda to jail for five years on February 8. Later, law enforcers took the BNP chief to the Central Jail on Nazimuddin Road in the city. Since then, she has been kept there.

According to pro-BNP lawyers, the BNP chief faced 37 cases and the police have submitted charges in 17 of these. Of the cases, four were filed during the tenure of the Army-backed 1/11 government that ruled between 2006 and 2008. The cases pertained to corruption in cases related to Barapukuria Coal Mine, GATCO, NIKO and the Zia Orphanage Trust.

Among the 37, lower courts have also issued arrest warrants against Khaleda in five cases as she did not appear before the courts in accordance with their orders.


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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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