Bangladesh court doubles jail term for opposition leader Zia

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DHAKA, Bangladesh

Bangladeshi opposition leader Khaleda Zia will receive a double jail term from five to ten years in a corruption case following an appeal by the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

Zia, a two-time former prime minister was sentenced to five years rigorous imprisonment in February in the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case. She has been in jail since then.

However, critics and her supporters argue that the court ruling is politically motivated to prevent her from running in general elections by the end of the year.

Zia, chairperson of the country’s main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), and five others were accused of embezzlement of funds meant for charity.

The six, including her son and heir-apparent Tarique Rahman, were convicted in February for embezzling over $252,000 from foreign donations intended for a charity named after former President Ziaur Rahman, Zia’s husband.

“Now, there’s no chance for the BNP chief to contest the next election,” Khurshid Alam Khan, a lawyer for the government, told reporters.

Khaleda and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, both related to former national leaders, have dominated politics in Bangladesh for more than two decades, nursing a long and bitter rivalry.