Saturday, August 17, 2019

‘Ailing’ Khaleda sent back to jail in Niko graft case

Friday, November 09, 2018 - 838 hours ago

A Dhaka court will frame charges against BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia and some other accused in the Niko graft case on November 14. Judge Mahmudul Kabir fixed the date yesterday after police brought Khaleda from Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and produced her in court.

During the hearing at the makeshift court on the old Dhaka Central Jail premises, Khaleda told the judge that she was produced in court in spite of her illness.

The former prime minister claimed that the earlier Awami League (AL) government had struck the Niko deal and her government just continued with it.

The BNP chief said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina should also be produced in court because she also faced a similar charge regarding the Niko deal. “Sheikh Hasina was an accused in the same case; she got acquittal, but not me. If I’m produced in court, then the PM should also be produced in court in the graft case,” defence counsel Sanaullah Miah

quoted her as saying. In response, the judge said that Hasina was already acquitted by the High Court (HC). He further said that Hasina was not an accused in the case. “So, the question of producing the prime minister in court is absurd,” he added.

Following this, barrister Moudud Ahmed, who is another accused in the case, submitted a petition to the court for adjournment of hearing. But the court rejected the plea and told him to take part in the hearing. After a brief hearing, the court fixed November 14 for framing charges against the accused.

Earlier yesterday, Khaleda was brought to the old central jail directly from Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) and produced in the special court at 11.40 am. After completion of the hearing, the court ordered the authorities to send the BNP chief back to jail.

On her way to the prison, Khaleda had a brief conversation with BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.

Later, Alamgir alleged that the government has forcibly sent the BNP chairperson to jail from BSMMU “with an ill motive to fulfil its political desire”. The BNP leader also alleged that the government has taken back their party chief to jail without a “discharge certificate” from the medical board treating her.

“As per the information we’ve received, the medical board didn’t give her any discharge certificate. The board said she’s very sick and shouldn’t be taken to jail in any way given her current condition,” he said, adding that it was “political vengeance” by the government.

On the contrary, BSMMU authorities told reporters that the medical board had allowed Khaleda to leave.

Hospital director Brig. Gen. Abdullah-Al-Harun said Khaleda was discharged upon approval from the medical board formed for her treatment. Khaleda was lodged in the old central jail on Nazimuddin Road after she was convicted in the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case on February 8.

On October 4, the HC directed the government to immediately admit Khaleda to BSMMU and form a new five-member medical board for her treatment.

On October 6, the prison authorities shifted her to BSMMU in accordance with the HC order. Later, a medical board headed by Prof Abdul Jalil Chowdhury was formed to suggest her line of treatment. The police yesterday brought the BNP chief to the old central jail following a gazette notification by the law ministry on Wednesday night, saying that the trial of all the accused in the Niko corruption case would be held at the makeshift court on the jail premises. The Anti-Corruption Commission had filed the graft case with Ramna police station in Dhaka in July 2008, accusing Khaleda and five others of misappropriating over Tk 2.1 crore that had come from a foreign bank as grants for orphans.

According to the case document, the then (1991-1996) PM, Khaleda Zia, had opened an account named “Prime Minister’s Orphanage Trust” with the Ramna branch of Sonali Bank. On June 9, 1991, USD 126,000 (Tk 44,481,216) was deposited in the account from United Saudi Commercial Bank, but the money was not spent on any orphanage between June 9, 1991, and September 5, 1993, it said.

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