Prosecutors were seeking life imprisonment for Zia a two-time former prime minister and head of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) for allegedly embezzling 21 million taka ($252,000) through a charity trust fund. Zia, 72, had denied the charges saying they were politically motivated.
With the guilty verdict, Zia, a former ally turned arch-nemesis of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, will no longer be able to contest the general election slated for December.
Moreover, Zia’s elder son and BNP Vice-Chairman Tarique Rahman and four others have been sentenced to 10 years each and a fine of Tk2.10 crore each in Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case, according to reports in the local media.
The court sentenced Khaleda to rigorous imprisonment and stated that the shorter term was for “her health and social status”, The Daily Star reported.
Prosecution sources said Khaleda will be kept at the old Dhaka Central Jail on Nazimuddin Road.
Zia arrived in the court of Judge Mohammad Akhtaruzzaman of the Special Court-5 escorted by policemen and party supporters.
Bangladesh’s Anti-Corruption Commission had filed a case accusing six people, including Khaleda, her son Rahman, former lawmaker Kazi Salim Haque, businessman Sharfuddin Ahmed, Khaleda’s former principal secretary Kamaluddin Siddiqui and BNP founder Ziaur Rahman’s nephew Momenur Rahman. Kamal and Momen are on the run.
On March 21 in 2014, a court in Dhaka framed charges against the six accused.
Khaleda was made vice-chairperson of BNP in March 1983 after the assassination of her husband and former president, Ziaur Rahman. She became chairperson of the party on May 10, 1984, a post she continues to hold.
Following today’s verdict, street protests by BNP supporters are feared in the capital.