Court orders arrest of Khaleda

Attempt to arrest Khaleda to expedite fall of govt: BNP-led alliance

Khaleda Zia

Khaleda Zia

The Dhaka Special Judge’s Court-3 on Wednesday issued warrants for arresting the Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson, Khaleda Zia, and two others in two graft cases. The judge of the court, Abu Ahmed Jamadar, also completed the recording of deposition of Anti-Corruption Commission deputy director Harun-or-Rashid in one of the two cases, Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case, after the issuance of the warrants. The court also asked Khaleda’s eldest son, Tarique Rahman, also the BNP senior vice-chairman, to appear before the court on March 4, the next date set for the trial. The BNP-led alliance warned that any step to arrest Khaleda would expedite the fall of the government. In a statement on behalf of the alliance, BNP joint secretary general Salah Uddin Ahmed issued the warning. The officers-in-charge of Gulshan and Cantonment police stations said that they were yet to receive the warrants till 9:40pm. The alliance, in the statement, said that the government was making ‘ill-attempt’ to put Khaleda in prison as its last effort to protect illegal power failing to curb mass movement even after arresting over 20,000 leaders and activists of BNP and its allies and killing and injuring hundreds of leaders and activists in the name gunfights. It said that the ‘illegal autocratic government’ accomplished all arrangements to arrest Khaleda, ‘the symbol of confidence of the nationalist force, uncompromised leader of movement for freeing democracy, and main obstacle to establish fascist one-party rule.’ The court issued the warrants for the arrest of Khaleda, former BNP lawmaker Kazi Salimul Haque Kamal and businessman Sharfuddin Ahmed on the ground of their absence from the court on several occasions. Khaleda, also former prime minister, appeared before the court for the last time on December 24, 2014 amid violent clash ensued after ruling Awami League-backed student body Bangladesh Chhatra League attacked her party men waiting nearby road to welcome her. Since December 24, she missed four dates — January 7, 15 and 29 and February 25 — set by the court. On January 7, Khaleda’s counsel pleaded that the court should issue a warrant to produce her before the court as the police had had been laying siege to her Gulshan office keeping her inside. Her lawyers filed a petition on January 15 saying that Khaleda had no confidence in the newly appointed judge of the court. She again failed to appear before the court on January 29 as it was immediately after the death of her youngest son Arafat Rahman Koko on January 24. On Wednesday, her counsel Sanaullah Miah sought time for the trail stating that Khaleda could not go to the makeshift courtroom at Bakshibazar on security ground. Kazi Salimul and Sharfuddin’s lawyers sought time on medical ground. Rejecting the petition, the court issued the warrants in the Zia Orphanage Trust and Zia Charitable Trust graft cases. It also rejected applications seeking a review of the orders. Prosecutor Musharraf Hossain Kajol sought legal action against Khaleda and others. ‘Khaleda Zia so far appeared only seven out of 63 dates [fixed for trial]…she was given enough time to follow the legal procedure,’ the judge said in the makeshift courtroom heavily guarded by police both in uniform and plainclothes. The prosecutor also told the court that Tarique’s counsel had been representing him in the cases since he had gone abroad for his treatment but now he [Tarique] was in good health. During the hearing, defence counsel AJ Mohammad Ali argued that the warrants should not be issued since Khaleda’s petition for changing the judge was pending with the Supreme Court. ‘Enough time has been given to bring the order in this regard but nothing so far produced in the court,’ the judge said. Khaleda, widow of the slain president Ziaur Rahman, Tarique, who has been staying in London with his family since September 2008, Zia’s nephew Mominur Rahman, Khaleda’s former principal secretary Kamal Uddin Siddiqui, Kazi Salimul Haque and Sharfuddin are facing charges of embezzlement of funds of the trusts. The charges warrant life term as the highest punishment. Of the accused in the orphanage trust case, Kamal Uddin and Mominur were being tried in their absence. In the Zia Orphanage Trust case, Khaleda and five others were charged with misappropriation of Tk 2.11 crore after withdrawal of the money from the trust fund between November 13, 1993 and March 28, 2007. On March 19, Bashudev Roy, the immediate past judge of the court, framed charges against Khaleda and eight others in the cases, reportedly without reading out the charges against the accused amid chaos in the court room triggering demonstrations in the court area. In the Zia Charitable Trust case, Khaleda and three others were charged with collecting Tk 3.15 crore illegally in the name of the trust and subsequently withdrawing the money from the fund in an attempt to misappropriate it. In the statement, Salah Uddin said that the government had turned the entire judicial system into a weapon to curb the opposition through politicising courts, and amending the constitution making provisions for impeaching Supreme Court judges. As part of it, arrest warrant was issued against Khaleda Zia in ‘false and fabricated cases,’ he said. He said that all including the countrymen and international quarters knew that the government had kept Khaleda in undeclared house arrest and barred supply of food to her office for over two weeks. Still she remained virtually incommunicado with disconnected electric communication systems including telephone, fax and cable networks. He said that earlier the ruling party terrorists unleashed armed attack on a motorcade of Khaleda on her way to the court and repressed many leaders and activists with the help of police. Without taking action against those who were involved in that incident, cases were filed against BNP leaders and activists, he said. He alleged that the warrants were issued on government influence although the court was informed about Khaleda’s incapability to appear before the court for security reason as the situation now turned more serious.

Source: New Age