B,desh Court Rejects Ex-PM Zia’s Plea, Defers Hearing

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Dhaka: A court on Sunday rejected two petitions of Bangladesh’s embattled former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia who appeared before it in a graft case which accuses her of embezzling over USD four lakh from a trust, saying there is “no ground” to re-examine the investigating officer.

Dhaka’s Third Special Judge’s Court deferred 70-year-old opposition leader Zia’s hearing and fixed April 25 to hear her statement over graft charges brought against her in the Zia Charitable Trust case which accuses her of embezzling 31.5 million Bangladeshi Taka (USD 4 lakh).

The court was scheduled to record her deposition on Sunday, but the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief Zia’s lawyers petitioned for a fresh testimony of the investigating officer, which the court turned down.

The BNP chairperson’s counsel then appealed for a fresh cross-examination of the investigating officer, which was also dismissed. The court rejected the petition on re-examining the investigating officer as it found “no ground”, The Daily Star reported.

There was a heated argument between the prosecution and the defence when Judge Abu Ahmed Jamadar deferred recording Zia’s statement and fixed April 25 to hear it.

In 2010, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) had filed the case against Zia and four others. In 2012, charges were pressed against four, including the two-time former Prime Minister Zia. In 2013, the trial began after the court indicted the four.

On March 31, the court had then fixed April 7 to hear Zia’s statement, but it was deferred as the BNP chief pleaded for more time. Two others accused in the case Ziaul Islam Munna and Monirul Islam Khan have pleaded not guilty while Haris Chowhdury is absconding.

In February, Zia was ordered to appear before a court to face trial in a separate USD 1.85 million graft case over contracting out cargo handling work to a company in exchange of kickbacks.

The case filed in 2007 during the military-installed caretaker regime accused her of contracting out an “unqualified” company called GATCO the task of handling containers at the country’s main southeastern seaport of Chittagong and Inland Container Depot in Dhaka allegedly in exchange of kickbacks during the 2001-2006 tenure of her BNP- led four party coalition government.

Zia and the co-accused were indicted in the case in September 2007 under a massive anti-graft campaign which was being spearheaded by the then interim government, installed with crucial military support on Jan 11, 2007 proclamation of the state of emergency.

 

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