Bangladesh ex-PM Khaleda Zia jailed amid clashes

  • Published
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) supporters shout slogans as they set fire during a protest in a street in Dhaka, Bangladesh February 8, 2018Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Thousands of Ms Zia's supporters have taken to the streets

Bangladeshi police have clashed with thousands of protesters, as opposition leader Khaleda Zia was jailed for five years for corruption.

Ms Zia, a former prime minister, denies misusing international funds donated to a charitable children's trust.

The jail sentence may mean the 72-year-old is barred from parliamentary polls due later this year.

The case is one of dozens pending against Ms Zia, a long-time rival of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Ms Zia has described the charges against her as politically motivated.

As she went into court, she told weeping relatives: "I will be back. Do not worry and be strong", according to the Daily Star.

The verdict was read out in a court in Dhaka after police used tear gas to disperse thousands of her supporters.

Several police officers were injured in the violence, reports said.

Her son Tarique Rahman was given 10 years in jail in absentia as he is in London. The same jail term was handed down to four of her aides.

The trial against Ms Zia centred around $252,000 (£182,000) intended for an orphanage trust set up when she was prime minister. She was found guilty of embezzling the funds.

Who is Khaleda Zia?

By BBC Monitoring

Image source, AFP
  • Khaleda Zia became Bangladesh's first female head of government in 1991 after leading the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to victory in the country's first democratic election in 20 years
  • She returned to the post of prime minister in 2001, stepping down in October 2006 ahead of a general election
  • Ms Zia is the widow of former Bangladeshi President Ziaur Rahman
  • Her political career has been marred by corruption allegations and a long-standing political rivalry with Awami League leader and current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina
  • The two women have alternated from government to opposition for most of the past two decades

The charges against her had already led to her boycotting elections in 2014, which triggered widespread protests at the time.

For Thursday's verdict there was heightened security across the capital and other cities. Many shops and schools were shut, reports said.

According to Ms Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), hundreds of its supporters were arrested in the run-up to the verdict.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Lawyers supporting Ms Zia's BNP party staged a sit-in
Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Thousands of police have been deployed in the capital