Bangladesh government to decide on waiving Zia’s sentences, relaxing bail conditions

Dhaka:  Bangladesh will decide on relaxing the bail conditions and waiving the 17-year sentence of former prime minister Khaleda Zia due to her failing health after discussion with the Law Ministry, media reports quoted the country’s home minister as saying.

The government in March, 2020 released the 74-year-old leader for six months on condition that she would stay at home amid the coronavirus outbreak in the country, receive treatment and not travel abroad. Her release was later extended by another six months last September.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief is serving a 17-year prison term in two graft cases since February 8, 2018.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal on Wednesday said that the decision of releasing BNP chairperson Zia by suspending her sentence would be taken after discussions with the Law Ministry, the Dhaka Tribune reported.

“We have received a letter from Khaleda Zia on behalf of her family. Now I will send this letter to the Law Ministry for examination, Kamal said.

Zia’s younger brother Shamim Iskandar submitted the application to the ministry on Tuesday as the release period is set to end on March 25, according to the home ministry.

In the application, the family said that they could not arrange better treatment for Zia during the COVID-19 pandemic and requested a relaxation of her bail conditions and a waiving of the sentence imposed on her, said the home minister.

“Our prime minister (Sheikh Hasina) is the mother of humanity. She always cooperates whenever she sees this type of condition,” Kamal was quoted as saying by the Daily Star newspaper.

Prime minister Hasina arranged Zia’s stay in her residence with conditions to ensure proper treatment, said the minister.

Zis received treatment from Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hospital specialists when she was in jail, Kamal said.

As she is suffering from arthritis and facing problems for movement, she needs continuous support from someone, he said, adding she was suffering from the problem earlier not for going to jail.

Zia served thrice as the prime minister since 1991. Her party was routed in the 2018 election, bagging only six seats in the 300-seat Parliament.

Her conviction on “moral turpitude” charges barred her from contesting the polls.

She was sent to jail in February 2018 by a local court on charges of embezzling foreign donations meant for an orphanage, named after her slain husband and president Ziaur Rehman, during her premiership between 2001 and 2006.

Rehman, a military ruler-turned-politician, was the founder of the BNP.

She was convicted in another corruption case later the same year, though her party claims both cases are politically motivated.

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