Warrants have been issued in two graft cases filed against Khaleda Zia, asking the prison authorities to produce her before court on February 18 and March 4.
The BNP chairperson, now in jail in the Zia Orphanage graft case, faces 33 more cases filed with different courts and police stations across the country.
Two courts in Dhaka issued the warrants yesterday in response to prayers filed by a lawyer of the Anti-Corruption Commission in Barapukuria and Gatco graft cases, court sources said.
The ACC move was termed by Khaleda's lawyers a design to linger her stay in jail.
Besides, two more prayers could be filed today for issuing warrants to produce her before court in the Zia Charitable Trust graft case on February 25 and 26 and in Niko case on March 11.
Currently, she is on bail in all the four cases.
As declared earlier, the BNP will observe sit-ins across the country today demanding the release of Khaleda, who was sentenced to five years in jail on Thursday.
Besides, the party will brief diplomats this afternoon about the current political situation and Khaleda Zia's conviction.
Ataur Rahman, special judge-1 of Dhaka, who ran two other courts yesterday in the absence of two judges, issued the warrants following prayers filed by ACC Chief Prosecutor Mosharraf Hossain Kajal.
"We received two production warrants," Brig Gen Syed Iftekhar Uddin, inspector general of prisons, told The Daily Star.
Usually, a defence lawyer files prayer for issuing production warrants against his or her client who is now behind bars in a case but on bail in other cases and is supposed to appear before court for those. Defence lawyers do it to ensure that the client's bail is upheld.
Khaleda is on bail in Barapukira coal mine and Gatco graft cases, lodged during the past caretaker rule, and the date for the next hearing in Barapukuria case is February 18 and in Gatco March 4.
"It's cheating and the prosecution followed an unfair means to keep the BNP chairperson behind bars for a longer period," Masud Ahmed Talukder, one of Khaleda's lawyers, told The Daily Star yesterday.
Khaleda may not be able to file appeal this week against her conviction in the Zia Orphanage graft case as she is unlikely to get the certified copy of the verdict in this case by this time.
The officials of the court that convicted and sentenced Khaleda said they started preparing the certified copy and they may need at least a week to complete it.
Even if Khaleda gets bail by filing appeal with the High Court against her conviction, Masud said, she may not be able to come out of the jail because of the production warrants.
To have the warrants recalled, her lawyers will need to file prayers before the courts that are holding trials in the Gatco and Barapukuria graft cases. Then the courts will decide whether they will hear the prayers or fix dates for it.
Contacted, ACC's lawyer Kajal denied the allegation raised by Khaleda's lawyer Masud.
"As the prosecutor, it's my duty to inform the courts about the next hearing dates of the two graft cases against the BNP chairperson," he said.
Kajal added that he will file two more prayers before the courts today, seeking issuance of production warrants in the Zia Charitable Trust and Niko graft cases.
At least five arrest warrants are pending against Khaleda right now -- three in Comilla and two in Dhaka. Of the three cases in Comilla, two were filed for arson and the other for killing.
Of the two cases in Dhaka, one is for undermining the national flag, while the other for celebrating fake birthday.
The BNP is likely to tell diplomats in details about the Zia Orphanage Trust case, according to party sources.
But talking to this newspaper, a senior official in the foreign ministry said that as per the diplomatic norms, a political party or a leader of any party can't brief foreign diplomats on the internal issues of the country though it has long been a practice here.
And the foreign ministry cannot tell foreign diplomats that they should not go to the briefing but if the diplomats interfere in the internal issues of the country, the government will take it seriously, the official said, wishing not to be named.
He also said the ministry does not have any plan to brief the diplomats about the current situation.
Contacted, Shahriar Alam, state minister for foreign affairs, said, “If any diplomat wants to know about the case, we will be happy to clarify. Their [BNP's] credibility has come down to zero at both home and abroad. Why they are presenting the issue before the diplomats is beyond my understanding.
“If the BNP has moral strength left, the party should fight it legally. It is not good for the country to engage diplomats in internal affairs.”
SHAMSUZZAMAN DUDU HELD
In another development, BNP Vice-Chairman Shamsuzzaman Dudu was arrested in the capital's Matsya Bhaban area yesterday. Masudur Rahman, deputy commissioner (media) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, confirmed this to The Daily Star.
Abdul Razi, president of Jatiyatabadi Krishak Dal's Bangshal unit, said Shamsuzzaman was picked up by police around 12:30pm while heading towards Shahbagh from Matsya Bhaban.
The party alleges that 4,400 leaders and activists have been arrested across the country since January 30.