Bangladesh’s ex-premier and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief Khaleda Zia, serving a 10-year jail term, received a temporary relief on Tuesday after a high court granted her six-month bail in two defamation cases.
However, the 73-year-old and three-time former prime minister cannot be released from jail as she has been convicted in two other cases.
A High Court bench of Justice Mohammad Abdul Habib and Justice Ahmed Sohel granted bail to Zia in two separate defamation cases after hearing bail pleas filed by her lawyers.
In 2014 and 2016, two cases were filed against Zia on the charges of hurting religious sentiments of Muslims and making derogatory comments on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
AB Siddique, President of Bangladesh Jananetri Parishad, a front organisation of the ruling Awami League, filed the cases.
He filed one case on October 21, 2014 claiming that Zia at a programme in Dhaka in the same year said the ruling party’s (Awami League) professed secularism was nothing but a sham, adding that her remarks hurt religious sentiments of Muslims, the Daily Star reported.
In another defamation case filed with a Dhaka court, he claimed that Zia at a programme in the Engineers Institution said Sheikh Mujibur Rahman did not want the independence of Bangladesh, rather he wanted to be the prime minister of Pakistan, the daily said.
The trial court issued arrest warrants against Zia on March 20, after which the BNP chairperson filed two petitions with the High Court, on May 22, seeking bail in those cases.
Zia was sentenced to five years in jail in February last year by a local court after being convicted in a corruption case in connection with the embezzlement of 21 million taka (about USD 250,000) in foreign donations meant for the Zia Orphanage Trust, named after her late husband Ziaur Rahman, a military ruler-turned-politician.
The High Court later doubled the jail term for imprisoned opposition leader from five to 10 years following a prosecution appeal.