Bangladesh Supreme Court upholds bail for opposition leader

DHAKA (AP) – Bangladesh’s Supreme Court yesterday upheld a High Court’s decision to grant bail to opposition leader and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, who was jailed for five years on a corruption conviction.

Lawyers from both sides said the ruling did not necessarily mean Zia will be released from jail because she was arrested in connection with three other cases.

The government appealed a March verdict by the High Court granting her bail for four months.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court also ordered authorities to make a final decision by July 31 involving a separate appeal by Zia seeking her release from jail.

Zia was in jail for more than three months in the graft case for misusing power and embezzling about USD250,000 involving a trust fund named after her late husband, former President Ziaur Rahman.

Bangladesh’s Attorney General Mahbubey Alam (C), walks to the court during the hearing on the leave-to-appeal petitions of their leader and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia over a graft case in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on May 15. – AP

The conviction meant that Zia, the archrival of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, could be barred from running in December elections.

Zia’s party said the February verdict was politically motivated, a charge the government denied. Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party threatened to boycott the next elections, saying they would not join the polls without Zia.

Bangladesh law said anyone imprisoned for more than two years cannot run for office for the next five years, but Law Minister Anisul Huq said the final decision rests with the higher courts.

Bangladesh politics are deeply fractious, with rivals Hasina and Zia ruling the country alternately since 1991, when democracy was restored.