A Dhaka court yesterday framed charges against BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, her son Tarique Rahman and seven others in two corruption cases.
The former prime minister was indicted in both Zia Charitable Trust and Zia Orphanage Trust graft cases, and Tarique, senior vice-chairman of the BNP, in the Orphanage case.
The trial will begin on April 21 with the deposition of the complainants.
Khaleda and her counsels alleged that the charges were not framed in compliance with the Criminal Procedure Code.
Talking to journalists, Khaleda questioned how the judge could frame charges without asking her whether she pleaded guilty or not.
According to a CrPc provision, if a court frames a charge against anyone, the charge shall be read and explained to the accused. And the accused shall be asked whether he or she pleads guilty or not.
But in this case, the court didn't do so though Khaleda was present in the courtroom.
The BNP is yet to give reaction to the indictment of the party chief and her son.
Khaleda told reporters that her party would decide on the next course of action following discussion by the national standing committee, the party's highest policy-making body.
The BNP chief talked to reporters after the judge walked out of the courtroom twice amid chaos.
She sat on a chair at the court for more than three hours.
In 2009, the Anti-Corruption Commission filed the Zia Orphanage case for embezzling Tk 2.1 crore by forming a “fake” trust during the 1991-1996 tenure of the BNP-led government.
The commission filed the other case in 2011 for abuse of power in setting up the charity when Khaleda was prime minister between 2001 and 2006.
Khaleda sought adjournment of the proceedings 52 times in the two cases on various grounds, including illness, hartal and security.
The BNP chief showed up at the Special Judge's Court-3 in Old Dhaka at 1:05pm yesterday. Hundreds of BNP men gathered in and around the court area.
Advocate Sanaullah Miah represented Tarique, as the BNP senior vice-chairman has been staying in London since 2008.
The special court, dealing with the two cases, was in an uproar, as soon as Khaleda, flanked by pro-BNP-Jamaat lawyers, appeared before it.
The courtroom plunged into chaos immediately after Judge Bashudev Roy turned down two appeals from Khaleda's lawyers for adjourning the hearing on charge framing.
At one stage, the judge left the courtroom after Khaleda's lawyers made abusive remarks and expressed no-confidence in him.
In the petitions, Khaleda's counsels argued that a leave to appeal was pending with the Supreme Court and a writ petition with the High Court in connection with the two cases.
But ACC lawyer Mosharraf Hossain Kajol opposed Khaleda's pleas saying the BNP chief sought time but she failed to submit any stay order from a higher court.
Hearing both sides for around 25 minutes, the judge rejected Khaleda's petitions saying she was given time on 40 occasions in the Zia Orphanage Trust case and on 12 occasions in the Zia Charitable Trust case.
Khaleda's counsels later told journalists that the judge rejected their pleas under pressure from the government.
They claimed the cases were false, fabricated and concocted, and were meant to harass and taint the image of the BNP chief, her son and others.
The prosecution, however, said the ACC filed the cases and pressed charges against Khaleda and others on the basis of facts.
“The judge framed charges against them in accordance with the law,” ACC lawyer Kajol told reporters.
Earlier, pandemonium broke out in the courtroom after the judge rejected Khaleda's pleas.
The pro-BNP lawyers hurled abusive words at the judge prompting him to leave the courtroom at 1:40pm.
The prosecutors and defence lawyers then became involved in an altercation over the rejection of Khaleda's pleas.
Around 2:00pm, the defence counsels went to the judge's chamber and submitted four petitions -- two for each case -- seeking permission to go to higher court for review of the rejection orders.
The judge returned to the courtroom at 3:15pm to hear the appeals but walked out again after the defence said it had no confidence in him.
From his chamber, the judge later issued an order indicting Khaleda, Tarique and seven others in the two cases.
ZIA ORPHANAGE CASE
The ACC accused Khaleda, Tarique and four others of embezzling Tk 2.1 crore by forming the Zia Orphanage Trust that exists only on paper.
The other four accused are former BNP lawmaker Kazi Salimul Haque, businessman Sharfuddin Ahmed, Khaleda's former principal secretary Kamal Uddin Siddiqui and BNP founder Ziaur Rahman's nephew Momenur Rahman.
Of them, Kamal and Momenur are on the run. The court issued arrest warrants for them yesterday.
The complainant alleged that a grant of $1,255,000 (around Tk 4.45 crore that time) was transferred from the United Saudi Commercial Bank to the Prime Minister's Orphanage Fund created by the then premier Khaleda shortly before the transfer was made on June 9, 1991.
It was done as part of the embezzlement scheme, and only Khaleda administered the fund, added the complainant.
ZIA CHARITABLE TRUST CASE
During the four-party alliance government's tenure, Khaleda and three others abused power to set up a Charitable Trust named after Ziaur Rahman, according to the commission.
The other three accused are Harris Chowdhury, Khaleda's former political secretary, Ziaul Islam Munna, assistant private secretary of Harris, and Monirul Islam Khan, APS of former Dhaka City Corporation mayor Sadeque Hossain Khoka.
Harris is absconding while Monirul and Munna are on bail. The court issued arrest warrant for Harris yesterday.
The ACC mentioned that the money spent for establishing the trust was collected from different sources, using the influence of the office of prime minister in 2005.
Just in a week from January 13, 2005, Tk 7.81 crore was deposited with the trust account, opened by Khaleda as the first managing trustee, at Sonali Bank branch at the Prime Minister's Office.
Of the amount spent on setting up the trust, Tk 2.87 crore came from unknown sources.