Former B'desh premier Khaleda Zia indicted over graft

Former B'desh premier Khaleda Zia indicted over graft

Former Bangladeshi premier Khaleda Zia and her fugitive son were today charged with corruption by a court here for allegedly collecting nearly USD 1 million in donations for charities named after her late husband.

Zia, 68, the chief of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), appeared before the court after skipping 41 hearings in the past.

She was charged along with her fugitive elder son and BNP's senior vice president Tarique Rahman and four others in connection two charitable organisations, which allegedly existed in papers alone.

The indictment came after hours of pandemonium which forced Judge Bashudev Roy to briefly leave the courtroom twice as the pro-BNP lawyers shouted, demanding adjournment of the hearing and allowing Zia to move to the High Court. Her legal team said that Zia had no confidence in the court.

Zia appeared before the court as the judge on February 16 warned her of serving arrest warrant if she failed to turn up.

During the past military-backed interim government, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in July 2009 filed a graft case against Zia, Rahman and four others for embezzling nearly USD 1 million by forming the "fake" trust.

Two years later, another case was filed against her and three others for abusing power in setting up the Zia Charitable Trust. The two charities were named after Zia's assassinated husband president Ziaur Rahman.

The ACC alleged that the accused received money from United Saudi Commercial Bank in 1991 for the welfare of orphans but the Zia family "in connivance with other accused withdrew the money by issuing four cheques and embezzled the amount".

The trial in the case will begin on April 21. Zia and her two sons, currently staying abroad, are facing 20 graft cases.

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