A local court on Monday sentenced main opposition leader Khaleda Zia to seven years in jail on corruption charges, local media reported.
The Dhaka Special Judge Court-5 found the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader and three others guilty of abusing their powers and raising over $370,000 for Zia Charitable Trust from unknown sources, local news outlet BDnews24 reported.
Zia, a former prime minister of the country and long-time rival of current premier Sheikh Hasina, is already in jail after being handed a jail term of five years in February this year over separate embezzlement charges.
The other convicts in the case are Khaleda’s former political affairs secretary Harris Chowdhury, his former aide Ziaul Islam Munna, and former Dhaka mayor’s personal secretary Monirul Islam Khan.
Munna and Khoka were present in court to hear Monday’s verdict while Harris Chowdhury has been at large since the start of the case.
Meanwhile, BNP has rejected the verdict, calling it a “political judgment” aimed at “keeping the party leader out of the upcoming elections in the country.”
Speaking at a news conference, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, secretary general of BNP, said: “The verdict was made in accordance with the government guideline, and the illegal punishment was delivered in order to keep the party leader out of the upcoming national elections.”
He announced countrywide protests against the judgment on Tuesday.
“Khaleza Zia is seriously sick with number of diseases and is under treatment. She could not appear before the court due to her illness, but the court conducted the case and delivered its verdict without her presence which is illegal,” Alamgir said.
Shortly after the verdict was announced, party workers took to the streets in the capital and demanded unconditional release of Zia.