Feb 25 (Reuters) – A Bangladesh court issued arrest warrants on Wednesday for former prime minister and opposition leader Khaleda Zia, action likely to escalate tension fuelling anti-government protests in which more than 100 people have been killed over the past month.
A special anti-corruption court issued the warrants after declining her lawyers’ plea for more time in two graft cases.
“The court issued warrants against her … There is no justice,” Khaleda’s lawyer Sanaullah Miah told reporters.
Khaleda is accused of embezzling $650,000 in two corruption cases involving charitable funds during her last term as prime minister from 2001 to 2006.
She has failed to appear in court for hearings citing security concerns.
She and leaders of her party have denied the charges saying they are politically motivated.
Khaleda’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party refused to take part in a general election a year ago, saying it was rigged.
It stepped up protests last month in a bid to force Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to step down and hold a new vote under a neutral caretaker administration.
Bangladeshi politics has been mired for years in rivalry between Hasina and Khaleda. Both women are related to former national leaders, and they have alternated as prime minister for most of the past two decades.
More than 100 people have been killed and hundreds injured in political violence over the past month, most in petrol bomb attacks on vehicles, amid opposition transport blockades and strikes aimed at toppling the government.
Khaleda, 69, is also facing charges of instigating the violence. (Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Robert Birsel)