Khaled Zia jailed, United Nations calls for maintaining calm


The Vice President of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has taken over as the party's chairman after his mother and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia was sentenced to five years in prison, an official said.

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

The 72-year-old three-time former Prime Minister was sentenced by Dhaka's Special Court in connection with the embezzlement of 21 million taka (about Dollars 250,000) in foreign donations meant for the Zia Orphanage Trust, named after her late husband Ziaur Rahman, a military ruler-turned-politician.

Khaleda's son, Tarique Rahman, and four others were jailed for 10 years at the end of a case that lasted almost 10 years.

Violence erupted in major cities across Bangladesh as news of the guilty verdict spread on Thursday, with BNP supporters clashing with police and activists from the ruling party.

The high court earlier validated the trial in the lower court which on March 19, 2014 had indicted Zia on two graft charges brought by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

Zia, 72, denies misusing global funds donated to the charitable children's trust.

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However, Law Minister Anisul Huq said that the decision showed that no one was above the law, adding that the BNP's claim the trial had been staged was "baseless".

"It's up to the appeals court to decide whether she will be eligible to run", he said after the verdict. "This case was totally fabricated, the main intention of this case was to malign Khaleda Zia and bar her from participating in the next election", Mirza Fakrul Islam Alamgir, Secretary General of the BNP party, said.

The BNP, which is now absent from the country's Parliament, boycotted the 2014 general elections after the government led by Sheikh Hasina of the Awami League did away with the system of an interim government. But Zia's supporters clashed with police as she was on her way to the court.

Activists from the ruling Awami League and its affiliate organisations had also occupied key points of Dhaka to stop BNP supporters from demonstrating.

Johnson said during his meeting with the prime minister they discussed nearly all the issues of bilateral relations.

Zia faces a total of 37 cases, charge sheets have been submitted in 17 of them.