BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia yesterday secured four months’ bail in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case that saw her sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.
But she could not walk out of jail as she was shown arrested in a case for instigating an arson attack on a bus on Dhaka-Chittagong highway in Comilla’s Chauddagram that left seven passengers dead and 25 to 30 others injured on February 3, 2015.
The High Court bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim and Justice Shahidul Karim passed the bail order in response to a petition filed by Khaleda.
In Comilla, Senior Judicial Magistrate Mustain Billah granted permission to show the BNP chief arrested in the arson case after police submitted a petition in this regard yesterday.
The court also asked Khaleda to appear before it on March 28.
Contacted, advocate Zainul Abedin, one of the counsels for the BNP chief, said Khaleda could not walk out of prison following the Comilla court’s order.“We will now move a petition before the High Court for her [Khaleda] bail in the arson attack case,” he said.Replying to a question, advocate Zainul also said if the government moves any appeal before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court challenging the HC order on Khaleda’s bail, her counsels will place arguments against it.
On February 8, the Special Judge’s Court-5 of Dhaka sentenced Khaleda to five years’ rigorous imprisonment in the graft case.The court also jailed her elder son Tarique Rahman, now acting chairman of the BNP, and four others for 10 years and fined them Tk 2.1 crore, saying all the six convicts would have to pay the fine in equal amounts.
The Anti-Corruption Commission filed the case with Ramna Police Station in July 2008, accusing the six of misappropriating over Tk 2.1 crore that came from a foreign bank as grants for orphans.
The HC bench yesterday granted her bail considering the quantum of punishment and the facts that she is 73 and suffering from various diseases, she faced trial proceedings at lower court while on bail in the case and the case records have reached the HC.It also directed the office concerned to prepare the paper book of the case within the next four months for hearing the appeal she filed against her conviction in the case filed by the ACC.
A paper book contains all the details of a case, trial proceedings, statements, evidence, verdict and other documents. The HC needs it for hearing and disposal of an appeal.After the HC passed the order, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam prayed to the court to hold up the bail order for two days so that the government can move a petition before the Appellate Division against the HC order.
The court, however, rejected the prayer.
ACC’s lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan told that the commission will move a petition before the Appellate Division today seeking stay on the HC order on bail. The lawyers for Khaleda will also submit two separate petitions to the courts concerned in Dhaka today seeking withdrawal of the production warrants issued against her in connection with Boropukuria coalmine and Gatco corruption cases, Zainal Abedin Mesbah, a lawyer for the BNP chief, told.
Two Dhaka courts had issued the warrants in the two graft cases, asking the prison authorities to produce Khaleda on separate dates.
Hours after the HC passed the bail order, eminent jurist Dr Kamal Hossain issued a statement saying, “Former prime minister Khaleda Zia has been granted bail by the High Court today. This needs to be done on a regular basis in this type of case though getting bail order in this case has been delayed for a few days. “Under the rule of law, an independent judiciary makes neutral application of laws. All have to realise the importance of an independent judiciary. It benefits the country as well as the people.”
During the HC proceedings yesterday, Justice Enayetur Rahim asked advocate Zainul Abedin whether he will place any arguments on the bail petition of Khaleda.
Advocate Zainul said they would not place any arguments as the HC had earlier concluded hearing on the bail petition and they were waiting for an order from the court. He also said they would come up with replies if the state counsels tell anything to the HC on this issue.
At one stage, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said this was a sensational case and the trial court sentenced Khaleda to only five years’ imprisonment considering her age and social status.He said the HC may order the authorities to prepare the paper book for hearing the appeal, filed by Khaleda on February 20 challenging the trial court verdict. This is a corruption case where allegation of misappropriating the money for orphans has been brought, he said.
Citing the example of former president HM Ershad’s conviction and sentence in the Janata Tower corruption case, the attorney general said the former dictator had been in jail for three and a half years. Mahbubey Alam said Khaleda Zia cannot be granted bail as she was in jail for only two months (including around one month during the rule of the military-backed caretaker government) in this case.
In response to the argument from the attorney general, Justice Enayetur Rahim wanted to know for how long Ershad was in jail.
The attorney general said Ershad was then 65-year-old.
Justice Enayetur noted that Ershad was physically fit and he got married after walking out of jail and later was blessed with a baby boy.
ACC lawyer Advocate Khurshid Alam Khan told the HC that Khaleda should not be granted bail because of her short sentence. And no medical certificate has been submitted to the HC in support of the illness of Khaleda Zia, he further said.
AJ Mohammad Ali, another lawyer for Khaleda, told the court that she is unable to move due to her illness.
At one stage, advocate Zainul Abedin told the HC that this court had earlier granted bail to an accused convicted and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment in a corruption case.
The HC bench on February 25 heard the bail petition and said it would pass an order after receiving the case records. The same bench on February 22 ordered the trial court to send the case records to it in 15 days.
Officials on March 11 brought the case records to the office concerned of the HC as per its February 22 order.
The officials of the criminal section of the HC produced the 5,373-page case records to the HC bench around 1:00pm yesterday.