Two years of Khaleda Zia in jail with no sign of release in sight

Dhaka, Feb 07 – BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia on Friday completed two years in prison with no sign of release soon despite obtaining bail in almost all the cases, except in three of them. This is likely to be her longest imprisonment. Earlier, she had been imprisoned in a special sub-jail in the Jatiya Sangsad complex for 372 days after being arrested on September 3, 2007, by the then Army-backed caretaker government.
The 75-year-old opposition leader, who is suffering from asthma, high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes and problems in her eyes and knees, is now given treatment at the prison cabin at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University since April 1 last year. However, the demand of BNP leaders and Khaleda’s family members to provide her treatment in a private hospital, such as United Hospital, has not been met.
The BNP rank and file is frustrated as the former premier is not released even in two years and they want to launch a tougher movement to free her from the prison.
The party policymakers alleged that Khaleda has been kept in prison for long time from out of political vengeance despite what they said having all the ground to consider her case.
Meanwhile, the BNP chalked out a two-day programme including holding a protest rally in front of party central office and at city and district levels to mark Khaleda’s two years in prison. AS part of the programme, the party yesterday observed doa dibosh (prayer day) in mosques across the country wishing her early recovery.
In Dhaka, the protest rally is scheduled to be held from in front of party central office at 2:00 pm today (Saturday) and the party is likely to announce a fresh course of political action demanding the release of the former premier.
The BNP, along with its partners in the Jatiya Oikyafront and the 20-Party Alliance, took part in the December 30, 2018, parliamentary elections while she was in jail. But the turnout of opposition leaders and activists was poor.
After joining politics on January 3, 1983, Khaleda was also arrested three more times during the anti-autocratic movement from 1983 to 1987 but did not have to stay in jail for too long.
The former prime minister, now serving her 17-year-term at BSMMU prison cabin following she felt sick on April 1 last year. Her family members claimed that the health condition is being deteriorated and they demanded allowing her bail to provide better treatment abroad.
The release of the BNP chief, who was sent to prison on February 8 last year following a special court verdict in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case, is being delayed because even if she obtains bail in one case, it has to be obtained in another. Khaleda was implicated in 37 cases on charges of corruption, killing people by setting fire on motor vehicles, creating anarchy, violence, sedition, and making defamatory statements.
Among them, she is serving 17 years in two graft cases—10 years in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case and seven years in the Zia Charitable Trust graft case. Of the rest 35, 19 cases are pending with different courts, while the other cases remain at the investigation stages.
Party leaders and Khaleda’s lawyers termed the cases filed against her politically motivated, alleging that she was unable to come out from jail because of government interference.
Ruling party leaders, however, rejected the allegation, saying that the law was taking its own course and that they were not interfering in the cases.
BNP standing committee member Dr Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said all the cases filed against Khaleda and her long imprisonment were politically motivated. “She was not involved in the charges brought against her in the case for which she was sent to jail. Since the cases are politically motivated, the legal matter here is secondary,” he added.
The elderly leader said the former premier has been kept in prison from out of political vengeance.
Speaking at a discussion meeting, BNP standing committee member Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury yesterday said the big message over freeing Khaleda soon would be given from Saturday’s rally.
He hoped that after completion of the two city corporations’ polls, the mode of movement to free the former premier would take a new direction.
The leader called upon party leaders and activists to make today rally a grand success.
Meanwhile, BNP leaders claimed that they were given verbal permission from the police authority to hold today’s rally in front of party central office.
In another development, the BNP yesterday brought out a procession in the city demanding the release of Khaleda Zia and withdrawal of her ‘punishment and false cases’.
The procession led by party senior joint secretary general was brought out from in front of party central office and terminated at the same place after parading Nightingale moor at Kakrail. – Staff Reporter