Former Bangladesh PM Khaleda Zia sentenced to seven years in jail

Former Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia on Monday was sentenced to seven years in jail in a case involving a charity fund named after her late husband. Judge Md Akhtaruzaman of a special court in Dhaka found her guilty of misuse of power as Prime Minister in collecting $375,000 for the Zia Charitable Trust Fund.

Former Bangladesh PM Zia was absent in court as she is in hospital while serving a prison term of five years in a separate case. In February, another court sentenced Khaleda Zia to five years in jail in a charity corruption case.

The judge also sentenced three others to seven years in jail each for collecting the money from undeclared sources. Zia’s party says the charges in both the cases are politically motivated.

The 73-year-old politician, who heads the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and has already been jailed in a separate corruption case, was not present when a special court in Dhaka handed down the verdict. She was convicted of misuse of power and raising 31.5 million taka (375,625 dollars) from unknown sources for the charity.

Zia had been in Dhaka Central Jail since a court in February sentenced her to five years imprisonment for misappropriating 14.5 million taka of funds intended for an orphanage.

The court also handed down seven years of imprisonment to three others accused, including Zia’s political secretary Harris Chowdhury, for assisting in accumulating money illegally. Chowdhury absconded from justice three years ago.

According to the verdict, each of the convicts has to pay a financial penalty of 1 million taka (11,916 dollars) in addition to their prison terms. Zia’s opposition party, BNP, has rejected the verdict as politically motivated and an attempt to keep Zia away from the upcoming national election due by December.

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