Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal yesterday said BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia would be moved to the Keraniganj Central Jail after being discharged from Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU).
“The government would convert the old central jail, where Khaleda has been kept since last year, into a museum. All preparations have been completed to shift her to Keraniganj Central Jail,” he told reporters at his office in the secretariat.
The decision came a day after the law ministry issued a gazette notification saying trials of 17 cases against Khaleda Zia would be held at a special court inside Keraniganj Central Jail in Dhaka due to security concerns.
The trials would take place at the special court set up at building-2 of Keraniganj jail, the notification said. The cases include the Niko, Gatco and Barapukuria coalmine graft cases.
Replying to question, the home minister yesterday claimed that Khaleda’s health condition was better now. She was doing well and fasting for Ramadan.
Khaleda was admitted to the BSMMU on April 1 and her treatment is still ongoing there, he said.
“Khaleda Zia will get amenities as per the jail code but now she was getting additional benefits out of the jail code considering humanitarian grounds,” he said.
“The government has decided to hold trials of the other pending cases against BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia at the Keraniganj Central Jail. A gazette notification was also issued in this regard on Monday,” Kamal said.
On the other hand, the BNP yesterday urged the government to stop its “dirty game with the life of its ailing chairperson”.
“After returning home from London, the Prime Minister asked the ministry concerned to set up court in Keraniganj Jail to hold the trial of cases filed against Khaleda Zia. A plot is on to take our seriously ill leader [Khaleda] to that jail even though her treatment has not been completed yet,” said BNP Senior Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi.
Speaking at a press conference at BNP’s Nayapaltan central office, he warned the government not to “play with fire” out of political vengeance.
“Stop the dirty game over the life of Khaleda Zia. Don’t influence the court and interfere in granting her bail.”
Protesting the government’s move, Rizvi urged the government not to incarcerate the freedom of court to eliminate its political opponents. He demanded Khaled be freed from jail.
“Or people won’t spare you,” he said.
GATCO GRAFT CASE HEARING DEFERRED
A Dhaka court yesterday deferred the hearing on charge framing against BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and 16 others in the Gatco graft case till June 18 as the BNP chief could not appear before the court due to illness.
Judge Abu Syed Diljar Hossain of Special Judge’s Court-3 of Dhaka passed the order at the makeshift court set up in Keraniganj Central Jail after Khaleda’s lawyer Masud Ahmed Talukder prayed to adjourn the hearing.
The Anti-Corruption Commission’s Public Prosecutor Mosharraf Hossain Kajol told the court that the hearing on charge framing cannot continue in absence of Khaleda, who is a prime accused in the case.
Thirteen of the accused, including former BNP ministers Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, AKM Mosharraf Hossain and Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, were present in court.
A petition was filed with the court seeking time for Lutful Kabir, an accused in the case, as he too was absent.
Two others accused -- Gatco director Shahjahan M Hasib and Ismail Hossain Simon -- are absconding in the case.
Later, after the hearing on the charge framing in the case, advocate Masud Ahmed Talukder told reporters that “the court is chasing Khaleda Zia”.
The government is wanting to finish the trial in anyway. There are many political purposes behind it. And the government is implementing those purposes one after another, he said.
However, Public Prosecutor Kajol said the court’s place was changed in line with the law.
On September 2 2007, the ACC had filed the case with Tejgaon Police Station against Khaleda and several others on charges of misappropriating around Tk 1,000 crore while dealing with Global Agro Trade (Pvt) Company Ltd (Gatco).
On May 13, 2008, the anti-graft watchdog pressed charges against Khaleda and 23 others.
Seven others accused, including Khaleda’s younger son Arafat Rahman Koko, were dropped from the charge sheet after their deaths.
Meanwhile, Supreme Court Bar Association General Secretary AM Mahbub Uddin Khokon in a statement yesterday demanded the withdrawal of the gazette notification issued to shift the court of Khaleda Zia.