Bangladesh opposition leader, ex-PM Zia gets bail in 5 cases

AP News
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Posted: Apr 05, 2016 10:34 AM

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia secured bail in a sedition case and four graft cases after she appeared in five separate courts in Bangladesh's capital.

Zia and the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party she leads say the cases are politically motivated and are meant to harass her. Authorities have rejected the allegations, saying the charges Zia faced involve corruption during her last premiership in 2001-2006 and violence in recent years as an opposition leader.

She appeared in courts Tuesday amid tight security as lawyers tied to her party crammed the courts while a few hundred supporters demonstrated outside.

Zia faced five courts and sought bail, said her lawyer A.J. Mohammed Ali.

Abdullah Abu, a prosecution lawyer, said the courts granted bail in the cases with various considerations. The five courts asked her to appear for more proceedings on different dates this month.

The sedition case involves an arson attack on a passenger bus last year during an anti-government movement to oust Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Last week, a court issued arrest warrants for her and 27 other opposition party leaders on accusations they instigated the attack, which killed one person and injured 30 people in January 2015.

The court had accepted the police charges that allege Zia instigated the violence when she asked her supporters to enforce a blockade to remove Hasina and demand a new election.

On Tuesday, defense lawyers argued that Zia deserved bail in the case as she was not at the scene of attack physically.

They argued that the case was politically motivated and the accused were not involved in any violence during protests that paralyzed the country for three months last year.

But prosecutors argued against bail because they said she instigated the attack. They also said some 150 people died, mostly in fire bombings by unidentified attackers, during the protests.

One of the graft cases involves a contract she awarded for managing container terminals in Dhaka and Chittagong where the nation's main seaport is located. The graft allegedly tied to the contract cost the state exchequer millions of dollars.