Bangladesh court orders release of opposition leader Khaleda Zia

The BNP leader was jailed for five years in February on charges of embezzling money intended for an orphanage.

Published: 16th May 2018 11:25 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th May 2018 11:25 AM   |  A+A-

Former Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia | File PTI

Former Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia | File PTI

By AFP

DHAKA: Bangladesh's Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the release from detention of 72-year-old opposition leader Khaleda Zia after her lawyers argued she was unwell.

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court's decision to grant Zia bail while she appeals against a five-year jail term imposed in February for corruption, her lawyer Joynal Abedin told AFP.

Zia's lawyers said they told the court that the three-time former prime minister, the arch-rival of current leader Sheikh Hasina, faced serious health risks if kept in prison.

Zia underwent a hospital check-up last month.

The Supreme Court had earlier suspended the lower court's decision to grant Zia bail, prompting her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to condemn the move as part of a campaign by Hasina to silence the opposition ahead of a looming national election.

It was not immediately clear, however, when Zia would be released from the special prison in Dhaka where she is the only inmate.

Abedin said Zia was officially considered under arrest in five other cases and she needs to get bail for each one, which may take days or weeks.

"We hope she will be released shortly," Abedin said.

Zia also faces dozens of separate charges related to violence and corruption.

The BNP leader was jailed for five years in February on charges of embezzling money intended for an orphanage.

Zia, who entered politics in the 1980s after her military dictator husband was assassinated in a failed coup, has consistently dismissed the charges as politically motivated.

Her party boycotted a 2014 national election in which Hasina was re-elected but is expected to contest the new polls due in December.

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