BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia may have to stay longer than initially expected time in jail, authorities concerned gave a broad hint.
The former prime minister is likely to be shown arrested in four more cases in which arrest warrants were issued, apart from her jailing for five years in a graft case last week.
Now kept in Nazimuddin Road jail in the city following her five-year imprisonment in Zia Orphanage Trust case, Khaleda Zia has been facing as many as 34 lawsuits. Warrant for her arrest has been issued in four cases so far.
Jail authorities have been asked to shift Khaleda Zia to the old jail's female ward, known as the day-care centre, from the building she is now staying -- a move, which is considered as symptom of her longer stay in jail.
When asked if the 73-year-old former prime minister's confinement would be prolonged, home minister Asaduzzaman Khan evaded a direct reply. "It depends on when the BNP will file an appeal and the court," he said.
However, a police official told Prothom Alo that the government might not back out from its strategy of keeping the BNP leadership under constant pressure.
The country's law and order had not deteriorated inlike what was specilated by the police before the judgement.
Ruling Awami League leaders believe the muted reactions from the BNP are because of the strong stand of the law enforcement and the incumbents, a few of them said.
Asked about such pressure, the home minister said lawsuits against Khaleda Zia including Zia Orphanage Trust graft case and Niko case are pending.
''Arrest warrant was earlier issued against her in a bus arson case. Let's see what happens,'' Asaduzzaman said but he declined to comment on whether the pending cases will be revived.
4 Arrest Warrants
A Dhaka court on 12 October 2017 issued an arrest warrant against Khaleda Zia in a case filed in 2016 over 'undermining Bangladesh's map, its national flag and liberation war'.
A Comilla court on 10 October 2017 issued an arrest warrant against Khaleda and 48 others in a case filed over 'hurling bomb on a bus on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway'.
A Dhaka court on 17 November, 2016 issued another arrest warrant against Khaleda in a case filed on charge of 'celebrating a false birthday on 15 August', the national mourning day.
A Narail court on 23 August 2016, issued an arrest warrant for Khaleda for her remarks on the number of martyrs of the liberation war. Raihan Faruki, resident of Chapail village of Narail filed the case with the court on 24 December 2015.
BNP in Fear
A number of pro-BNP lawyers said they are in fear that Khaleda Zia’s stay in prison might get longer.
The lawyers said they are yet to get the certified copy of the judgment for which they cannot file an appeal with the High Court against the verdict of the lower court.
The BNP chief’s lawyers also said if Khaleda is shown arrested in any other case, then it will take time to take bail in those cases.
One of her lawyers, Khandakar Mahbub Hossain said Khaleda’s imprisonment will definitely get longer if the government wants to keep her in jail for a long time.
He also said that filing an appeal is possible within two hours upon receiving the certified copy of the judgment. Hearing on the bail petition might take place within a week, if there is no further delay from the government, Mahbub added.
Arguments for Appeal
Lawyers said, the verdict against Khaleda Zia was given under section 409 of the penal code, which is used for the government employees for embezzlement of public money. However, no embezzlement of government money was done in this case. The ACC also had no role in this as the plaintiff did not claim it was government money, lawyers added.
The ACC lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan however said, the anti-graft body is yet to decide on whether to appeal for increasing the sentence of the convicts of the case.
Asked if the ACC will oppose Khaleda’s bail petition, Khurshid Alam Khan said, “Definitely, we’ll oppose if she (Khaleda Zia) appeals. We’ll contest even if she appeals for bail. The Anti-Corruption Commission has also applied for the certified copy of the verdict.”
Law minister Anisul Huq, at a programme of the lawyers in Dhaka on Sunday, said the government is not willing to keep someone out of the electoral process. "But, the government can't do anything if the law keeps anyone out of the elections," he added.
Awami League presidium member and health minister Muhammad Nasim said, “We don’t want anyone to be jailed. However, it is not unusual for the politicians. The court sent Khaleda in jail. We want he BNP to free its leader legally, so that everyone can participate in the elections.”
Imtiaz Ahmed, professor of International Relations at Dhaka University, said 8-9 months is still left for the elections. "The BNP is preparing for the elections. It is likely that the BNP will not do the same mistake of not participating in the elections."
However, he added, it appears that the government is trying to corner the BNP leadership. The BNP chief’s participation in the elections is still in doubt, he said.
Imtiaz Ahmed said sympathy of the people will be with the BNP if the government becomes harsh with the BNP and if Khaleda Zia is unable to contest the elections.