The former Prime Minister of Bangladesh and opposition leader Khaleda Zia was handed seven years in prison Monday on corruption charges after she was jailed for five years in a separate case in February.
Her two sentences will run concurrently meaning she will spend extra two years in jail which means she will not be able to run for general elections in December.
Khaleda, 73, and three aides were convicted by Judge Md Akhtaruzaman of misappropriation of 31.5 million taka (US$371,550) for an orphanage when she was last prime minister, from 2001 to 2006, state prosecutors said.
The judge also sentenced three others to seven years in jail each for collecting the money from undeclared sources for the trust-Zia Charitable Trust Fund- named after Zia’s late husband and former President Ziaur Rahman.
The judge of the special court said Khaleda abused her power to raise illegal funds for her personal trust, Mosharraf Hossain, a lawyer for the government, told reporters. “The court believes she should face strict punishment as an example,” he said.
The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has been in disarray ahead of the elections after Khaleda was jailed in February for stealing funds for the orphanage.
Earlier this month, a court sentenced Khaleda’s son and the acting chief of the BNP, Tarique Rahman, who lives in exile in London, to life in jail over a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2004.
The BNP has urged the government to free Khaleda and called for a neutral caretaker government to be put in place before the vote. It called for a nationwide protest Tuesday, rejecting the judgment as “state-sponsored”.
“Our leader is the victim of political vendetta. This is a part of a plot to keep her and her family away from politics and elections,” said BNP secretary-general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.
Khaleda did not appear in court on Monday as she has been undergoing treatment in a hospital this month for arthritis and diabetes.
BNP supporters said that this judgment was a ploy by the current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the long and bitter rival of Khaleda to deter her from contesting upcoming elections. BNP boycotted the last bloody elections in Bangladesh which led to the prime ministership of Hasina in 2014.