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Bangladesh’s Zia Loses Court Battle On Corruption Charges

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DHAKA – Bangladesh’s highest court today rejected appeals by opposition leader Khaleda Zia, clearing the way for her to stand trial on embezzlement charges that could see her jailed for life.

Zia, a two times former prime minister and leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), went to the Supreme Court seeking suspension of the proceedings, saying the lower court judge who has been hearing her cases was appointed illegally.

But a Supreme Court bench headed by chief justice Md Muzammel Hossain dismissed her appeals, allowing the trials to go ahead in a special court that deals with graft cases, her lawyer Sanaullah Miah said.

“We have not got justice,” Miah told AFP, adding Zia’s trials in the graft court could still be delayed as the Supreme Court has not yet disposed of two more appeals against the charges.

Earlier the high court rejected similar appeals by Zia, prompting her lawyers to move to the highest court in a last-ditch attempt to stop the trials.

Prosecutors have accused Zia’s lawyers of time-wasting, saying proceedings have been delayed by dozens of times in the case.

Zia and three of her aides are accused of siphoning off 31.5 million taka (about US$400,000) from a charitable trust named after her late husband Ziaur Rahman, a former president who was assassinated in 1981.

She is also accused of leading a group of five people, including her eldest son, in embezzling 21.5 million taka (US$277,000) – funds which were meant to go to an orphanage set up in memory of her late husband.

Zia, who has been excused from attending the trial, has called the charges politically motivated, aimed at destroying the BNP, which has vowed to topple the government of her arch rival Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. – AFP

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