Bangladeshi High Court defers verdict on plea over graft case against Zia

| Sunday, March 8, 2015 - 18:54
First Published |

Dhaka: A Bangladeshi High Court today deferred till March 16 its verdict on a petition challenging opposition leader and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's indictment in a graft case after her lawyers sought more time.

The High Court re-fixed the date for the judgment on Zia's indictment in a graft case related to awarding of a contract for exploring a coal mine during her premiership between 2001-06, said an official of the two-member bench.

The court deferred its verdict after the 69-year-old BNP chief's lawyers sought the deferment saying they had some points to make ahead of the judgment.

Zia's lawyers had evaded the previous date of hearing on March 5 when the two judges heard the unilateral arguments of the prosecution side.

The court's decision came as the BNP is spearheading a massive anti-government campaign since January 5 coinciding with the first anniversary of the divisive polls which the opposition party had boycotted.

The unrest has so far claimed over 115 lives mostly in clandestine arson attacks on buses and trucks by suspected opposition activists or hired goons.

During the 2006-2008 emergency rules under the past military-backed interim government, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) filed a case accusing the former Premier of corruption in awarding the contract of the Barapukuria Coal Mine to a Chinese company.

The ACC filed the case on February 26, 2008 accusing Zia and several others of causing a loss of Taka 159 crore to the state exchequer by awarding a contract to the Chinese company.

On October 16 of the same year, Zia challenged the indictment. Since then the proceedings of the case were stopped under a High Court stay order.

The court also issued a rule upon the government and the ACC, asking them to explain why the case should not be quashed in line with the petition.

The case reappeared in the scene when Zia is being tried in another two graft cases involving the alleged embezzlement of money in the name of two charities.

Police in the past two months have filed a number of cases accusing Zia of masterminding particularly a number of clandestine arson attacks. Officials said investigations were "underway" into the charges for the subsequent legal actions against her.

BNP and its rightwing allies have continued to enforce a non-stop nationwide blockade since January 6 while it enforced afresh a 72-hour general strike to reinforce the blockade after a series of identical shutdowns in the past two months.

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