From today, trial proceedings in Zia Charitable Trust corruption case against Khaleda Zia will be held at old Dhaka central jail where the BNP chief is serving time in another graft case.
Previously, the proceedings used to take place at a makeshift court in Bakshibazar area. However, since her conviction in Zia Orphanage Trust graft case on February 8, Khaleda has not been produced before it.
The law ministry issued a gazette yesterday, saying the proceedings in the Zia Charitable Trust case would now be held at the old Dhaka central jail on Nazimuddin Road. The decision was made taking Khaleda's security into consideration.
The gazette, signed by Md Mahbubar Rahman Sarkar, deputy secretary (administration-1) of the ministry, said the proceedings could not be held at Bakshibazar because it is a crowded area. Instead, the trial would take place at a temporary court at Room-7 of the jail's administrative building.
Asked, Deputy Commissioner (prosecution) Anisur Rahman told The Daily Star that the government has set up a temporary court for the trial. Judge Md Akhtaruzzaman of the Special Judge Court-5 of Dhaka will be holding the trial from today.
In 2016, the law ministry had issued another gazette, saying the trial proceedings in the two graft cases would be held at the makeshift court at Bakshibazar.
Contacted, Khaleda's lawyer Masud Ahmed Talukder said the decision for holding the trial inside the jail was an “illegal attempt”. Any trial should be held where everybody has access.
“But the jail is a restricted area where nobody can enter easily to witness the trial,” he said.
The Anti-Corruption Commission had filed the Zia Charitable Trust graft case against Khaleda and three others with Tejgaon Police Station in August, 2011. According to the case statement, the former prime minister and three others abused their power and raised funds for the trust from unknown sources.
The three others are Harris Chowdhury, political secretary to the then PM Khaleda, Ziaul Islam Munna, assistant private secretary (APS) to Harris, and Monirul Islam Khan, APS to former Dhaka City Mayor Sadeque Hossain Khoka.
'IT'S TRIAL IN CAMERA'
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir yesterday said the government's decision to try Khaleda Zia inside the old Dhaka central jail in the Zia Charitable Trust graft case was “contradictory to the country's constitution”.
“We are considering it as a trial in camera. We are demanding withdrawal of such a decision,” he said.
The BNP leader was speaking at a press conference at the party chief's Gulshan office last night, hours after the government issued a gazette notification over holding her trial inside the jail.
Fakhrul warned of waging a tougher movement immediately if the decision was not withdrawn.
“We are telling very clearly that it is a blatant violation of the constitution. According to article 35 (3) of the constitution, the trial will have to be held in public,” he said.
Article 35 (3) of the constitution stipulates that an accused in a criminal case shall have the right to a speedy and public trial by an independent and impartial court or tribunal established by law.
“The civilian rights of a former prime minister are being violated by violating the constitution. What can be a bigger offence than this?” Fakhrul questioned.
Strongly condemning the government's move, he demanded immediate release of Khaleda for the sake of holding free, fair and inclusive general elections.