The High Court yesterday accepted BNP chief Khaleda Zia’s appeal to quash a trial court verdict that sentenced her to seven years in jail in October last year.
The bench of Justice Obaidul Hasan and Justice SM Kuddus Zaman also stayed the effectiveness of the Tk 10 lakh fine slapped by the trial court in the corruption case involving Zia Charitable Trust.
It comes a day after four BNP MPs joined parliament in a U-turn.
The four took oath on Monday, the last day to do so, in line with the party decision, although party Sec-retary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir did not join parliament.
The former prime minister landed in jail on February 8 last year after being convicted in a separate cor-ruption case involving Zia Orphanage Trust, filed during the 2007-08 military-backed caretaker govern-ment rule. The HC later increased her jail sentence to 10 years in that case.
The BNP chief, who faces at least 36 cases filed over the last 12 years, launched a series of legal battles to secure bail in vain.
Yesterday, the High Court ordered the lower court officials to submit before it the Charitable Trust case documents in two months for its review.
The court also ordered a status quo on the trial court’s order to confiscate the land bought in the name of the Zia Charitable Trust. This case was filed by the current government.
Earlier on April 23, the HC set yesterday for hearing the petition.
Meanwhile, a Dhaka court yesterday adjourned till May 14 the hearing on charge framing against Khaleda and 16 others in the Gatco graft case, lodged in 2007.
Khaleda, who is now being treated at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, was not produced before the court.
Also yesterday, another Dhaka court refrained from passing any order on Khaleda’s bail in a case for making “defamatory comments” about Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The court made the decision after Khaleda’s lawyer, Masud Ahmed Talukder, requested it to hold the hearing in his client’s presence.
Metropolitan Magistrate Ziaur Rahman then directed the officer-in-charge of Gulshan Police Station to submit by May 30 a report on the execution of the arrest order for Khaleda issued by the court last month.
Earlier on June 30 last year, Inspector Zafar Ali Biswas of Shahbagh Police Station submitted the probe report, in which he said to have found the allegation to be authentic.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE HEARING?
At the beginning, Khaleda’s lawyers, Zainul Abedin and Mahbub Uddin Khokon, sought to submit a bail petition but the HC declined to entertain it, saying it will do so upon getting the lower court documents.
The court said it was not granting Khaleda bail as she is already convicted in the Zia Orphanage Trust Graft case.
Even if the HC allowed her bail, she will not be able to get out of jail because she faces other cases, the court said.
As Zainul insisted that they had a right to file a bail petition, the court said it would certainly hear the peti-tion once the lower court documents are available.
At this, Zainul said the lower court documents may not be available even in three months, to which the court said it would order the trial court to furnish the papers in three months.
At one point, the HC said it was not true that it never grants bail.
“So we will consider the bail petition after the lower court documents arrive,” the court said.
The bench said the HC earlier enhanced Khaleda’s five-year sentence by a lower court by five years in the Zia Orphanage corruption case.
“Khaleda is not on bail in that case. So even if she gets bail in this (Zia Charitable case) case, it will not bring any results. She cannot walk out of jail, and so it is not emergency. Let the records come and then the issue will be considered,” the court said.
After the hearing, the HC directed the trial court to send the documents in two months. It also said if Khaleda’s lawyers can bring the documents in 15 days, the court will hear the matter.
At one stage, the defence lawyer said his client is a former prime minister and chairperson of a big polit-ical party. This is why her bail is important.
To this, the court said, “You [BNP] are going to parliament too as we can see.”
Zainul Abedin said it was a different matter altogether.