BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia did not appear before a special court at Old Dhaka Central Jail yesterday in the Zia Charitable Trust corruption case.
Judge Md Akhtaruzzaman of the Special Judge Court-5 adjourned yesterday's hearing of the case, saying the court would hear whether it should continue its proceedings in absence of Khaleda.
The judge said this after the jail authorities informed that court about her unwillingness to appear before it.
Khaleda's lawyers filed a petition yesterday, saying that the makeshift court inside the prison could not continue its proceedings without permission from the Supreme Court.
Previously, the proceedings used to take place at a makeshift court in Bakshibazar area, but the law ministry on September 4 issued a gazette notification, saying that the trial in the graft case would be held at Old Dhaka Central Jail on Nazimuddin Road.
The decision, it said, was made taking Khaleda's security into consideration.
During the first hearing at the makeshift court on September 6, Khaleda was produced before the court where she expressed a lack of confidence in the special court trying the case.
Centring the trial, a large number of law enforcers were present in and around the court area yesterday. Around 10:00am, officials entered the court. Public Prosecutor Mosharraf Hossain Kajal went to the court around 10:40am and then Khaleda's lawyer Sanaullah Mia appeared.
During the hearing, Sanaullah said this court was not an “open court” and it was against the constitution. He then prayed to extend bail for Khaleda.
Then Aminul Islam, lawyer for another accused Ziaul Islam Munna, told the court that the court was like a cave and it was difficult to take a breath.
Praying to adjourn the court proceedings for a month, the lawyer said he never saw such a court in his 30-year career in law.
There is no adequate space for sitting lawyers and journalists and no scope for the common people to enter the courtroom to see the court proceedings, said Aminul. “It cannot be an open court.”
Anti-Corruption Commission lawyer Mosharraf Hossain said the court had been formed following legal aspects and that it had been shifted for Khaleda's convenience.
“One of Khaleda Zia's lawyers said the court is against the constitution and on the other hand, they seek bail for their client. It is a double standard.”
Mosharraf also said Khaleda was not cooperating with the court.
In reply, Sanaullah said Khaleda was sick and four of her senior lawyers met her inside jail. BNP secretary general met the home minister regarding her health condition.
At this stage, prosecutor Mosharraf said it was repeatedly said Khaleda was sick, but what was her illness. “Everyone saw she came to the court and made statement.”
When the prosecutor and defence lawyers were placing arguments, the judge told Khaleda's lawyer that the jail authorities informed the court that she did not want to appear before the court. “Are you seeking her bail?” he asked.
Extending Khaleda's bail for yesterday, the judge asked her lawyer to explain how she would secure bail if she did not appear before the court and how the court proceedings would continue in absence of her.
The ACC filed the Zia Charitable graft case with Tejgaon Police Station in August 2011, accusing Khaleda and three others of abusing power to raise funds for the trust from unknown sources.
On February 8, the same special court awarded Khaleda five years' imprisonment in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case and sentenced her elder son Tarique Rahman, now acting BNP chairman, and four others to 10 years' imprisonment each.