Khaleda’s stay in prison may be longer

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Hindustan Surkhiyan Desk:BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia may have to stay longer in jail as her counsels are unlikely to get a certified copy of the verdict this week.

It will take a week to complete the process of issuing a certified copy of the judgment, said officials at the Special Judge’s Court-5 that on Thursday sentenced Khaleda to five years’ rigorous imprisonment in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case.

Khaleda’s lawyers cannot file an appeal with the High Court against the lower court verdict and seek bail for her until they get the certified copy.

Yesterday, they submitted a petition to the special court, asking for the certified copy so that they can file an appeal with the HC as soon as possible.

Seeking anonymity, an official of the court told this newspaper that it will take at least six days to complete the process of issuing the certified copy of the 632-page judgment. And the number of printed pages will be between 1,500 and 1,600.

Meanwhile, several police officials told this correspondent that a few pending cases against the BNP chief may see progress in the coming days.

She could be shown arrested in those cases, they added.

The BNP chief now faces 34 lawsuits.

Yesterday, a Comilla court accepted charge sheets against her and 48 others in two cases — one for murder and the other for an arson attack on a bus. She was accused of masterminding the attack that left eight people dead.

Kaimul Haque Rinku, defence counsel for Khaleda, said the court had earlier issued arrest warrants against Khaleda on January 2.

The arrest warrants were already sent to Khaleda’s address in the capital, said Inspector Mohammad Firoz Hossain of Detective Branch of police in Comilla, also investigation officer.

The two cases were filed after eight passengers were killed in a petrol bomb attack on a bus in Comilla’s Chouddagram upazila on February 03, 2015.

In January-February that year, at least 95 people were killed in violence amid a countrywide blockade and shutdowns enforced by the BNP-led alliance. Numerous petrol and crude bombs went off and public transport came under arson attacks across the country during the period.

Yesterday, the special court directed the jail authorities to provide Khaleda with first-class division in line with the jail code.

Judge Md Akhtaruzzaman of the special court in Dhaka passed the order after her lawyer Sanaullah Miah moved a petition seeking division for her in prison.

Sanaullah said the court issued two orders — one for giving the BNP chief division and the other for allowing her house help Mosammat Fatema to stay with her in jail.

Later, Inspector General of Prisons Brig Gen Syed Iftekhar Uddin confirmed to The Daily Star that the former PM was given division in line with the court directives.

Seeking anonymity, one of the prison officials said Khaleda’s house help Fatema arrived at the old central jail in the evening to stay with her.

After meeting Khaleda in prison on Saturday, her lawyer Moudud Ahmed alleged that she had been kept in the jail just like any other ordinary prisoner and was not given division.

Later that night, she was shifted to one of the four rooms on the first floor of the renovated day-care centre in the jail from the room of a nearby two-storey building once used as office of the jail superintendent.

The BNP chief was taken to the prison on Thursday afternoon after the special court delivered the judgment. The court also sentenced Khaleda’s eldest son and BNP Senior Vice Chairman Tarique Rahman, and four others to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment and slapped a fine of Tk 2.10 crore each.

Iftekhar said Khaleda was moved to the day-care centre for ensuring her privacy. “The room is well furnished and has an attached bathroom.”

Khaleda behaved well with the jail staff and cooperated with them, said the prisons chief.

About her daily routine, Iftekhar said she is not eating much, and is skipping lunch.

She takes bread and vegetable for breakfast around noon, and some snacks and fruits in the evening. She eats rice, fish, and vegetable for dinner around 10:00pm, said the IG prisons.

He also said they installed a television in her room with access to only BTV. But they later removed it as she refused to watch BTV.

A female physician, a nurse and four female guards have been employed to look after her, said Iftekhar.

The IG prisons further said she had been treated like an ordinary prisoner until the court granted her division. As per the 2006 jail code, only lawmakers and ex-presidents automatically get division in prison. The code, however, doesn’t mention anything about giving division to former prime ministers.

Briefing journalists at his secretariat office, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader said Khaleda is getting all the facilities and due honour in prison as she is a former PM.

“Jail is not a place for leading a luxurious life or spending leisure time…The BNP chief is getting all the facilities available in prison as per the jail code,” he said.

News agency UNB reports, the US has said peaceful expression of dissent is an essential part of a functioning democracy.

“We continue to monitor the situation and encourage all parties to engage peacefully and responsibly, and for all sides to refrain from violence,” mentioned the US Department of State.

The US Embassy in Dhaka shared the message on its official Facebook page yesterday.

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