Former Bangladesh prime minister Khaleda Zia was sentenced to another seven years in jail for illegally raising charitable funds by using the power of her office, court officials said Monday.
The 73-year-old politician, who heads the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and has already been jailed in a separate corruption case, was not present when a special court in Dhaka handed down the verdict.
The BNP denounced the verdict as politically motivated.
She was convicted of misuse of power and raising 31.5 million taka (375,625 dollars) from unknown sources for the charity.
The funds were raised for Zia Charitable Trust, the charity named after her slain husband Ziaur Rahman, during her 2001-06 tenure as prime minister, prosecution lawyer Mosharraf Hossain Kajal told reporters.
Zia has been in a Dhaka hospital since her health began to deteriorate in prison.
She had been in Dhaka Central Jail since a court in February sentenced her to five years imprisonment for misappropriating 14.5 million taka of funds intended for an orphanage.
The court also handed down seven years of imprisonment to three others accused, including Zia's political secretary Harris Chowdhury, for assisting in accumulating money illegally. Chowdhury absconded from justice three years ago.
According to the verdict, each of the convicts has to pay a financial penalty of 1 million taka (11,916 dollars) in addition to their prison terms, Kajal said.
The court asked the authorities to confiscate a piece of land purchased in central Dhaka by the ill-gotten money of the Trust, he added.
Bangladesh's anti-graft watchdog filed the corruption case against Zia and three others with Tejgaon police station in 2011 accusing them of illegally raising the money from unknown sources.
Zia was accused of using her office to influence the fund-raising for the Trust, according to the case statement.
Raising money from unknown sources using the highest position of the government is always unwanted, observed the court.
‘We will decide later the next course of legal battle against the verdict,’ said Sanaullah Mia, one of Zia's lawyers.
Zia's opposition party, BNP, has rejected the verdict as politically motivated and an attempt to keep Zia away from the upcoming national election due by December.
‘The government has been doing these as per its plan to establish a one-party system of government in Bangladesh keeping opposition figures away from politics,’ Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, the secretary general of the party said.Last updated: October 29 2018 12:48 PM
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