DHAKA: Bangladesh's Supreme Court today deferred until tomorrow the hearing on a plea by the country's anti-corruption body challenging the bail granted to former prime minister and opposition BNP chief Khaleda Zia in a corruption case.
Zia, 72, was sentenced to five years in jail in February by a lower 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, during her 2001-2006 premiership.
The High Court on March 12 granted Zia a four-month interim bail, considering her age and health issues after the special court released the full verdict.
When the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the State moved the Supreme Court's Appellate Division, it suspended the bail order until May 8, allowing these two to start appeals against the bail.
The Supreme Court bench, led by Chief Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, was scheduled to pass the order today, but it deferred the hearing until tomorrow.
As the judges started hearing the case in the morning, ACC lawyer Khurshid Alam presented his arguments on the appeal challenging the bail petition.
Later, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam presented his arguments on behalf of the State.
Following their arguments, AJ Mohamamd Ali who appeared for Zia made arguments and pleaded for her bail.
BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir and other senior party leaders were present in the courtroom while party activists rallied around the Supreme Court complex prompting an extra security vigil in the neighbourhood.
Zia's imprisonment shook the country's political scenario ahead of the general elections in December this year.
The BNP, the main opposition outside parliament, alleged the trial was politically motivated to debar her from contesting elections, an allegation denied by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government.
Political analysts feared the BNP is facing political wilderness after Zia's conviction, which is likely to disqualify her from elections unless she could obtain a different verdict from the Supreme Court.