Bangladesh Supreme Court upholds bail for opposition leader

Bangladesh Supreme Court upholds bail for opposition leader

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) - Bangladesh's Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a High Court's decision to grant bail to opposition leader and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, who was jailed for five years on a corruption conviction.

A four-member bench of the Appellate Division, led by chief justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, handed down the order. The apex court has upheld the High Court's order giving her bail.

The court is now preparing to hear Zia's appeal against her conviction.

Lawyers from both sides said the ruling does not necessarily mean Zia will be released from jail because she's been arrested in connection with three other cases.

Her lawyers, however, said that the verdict was unlikely to bring the 72-year-old Zia out of prison as her bail pleas in at least five similar cases against her were pending hearing.

However, Mohammad Ali apologised to the court and said: "The court can react, but the court does not allow us (lawyers) to react".

In response, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam and ACC lawyer Khurshid Alam argued that the lower court had already taken a lenient stance in handing down her the jail term due to her age, and this "lenient punishment" could not be a reason for her bail. Later, the anti-corruption commission and the government challenged the high court order, taking their appeals to the appellate division.

The AG told the apex court that Khaleda had discharged the duties of the prime minister and continued her politics despite having the diseases "which are tolerable".

In another development, the hearings of 11 cases, including a sedition suit, filed against Khaleda were adjourned by a Dhaka court yesterday until July 1.

A special court had in February this year sentenced Khaleda Zia, her elder son Tarique Rahman and four others for embezzlement of funds meant for Zia Orphanage Trust. Later, the Appellate Division stayed Khaleda Zia's bail until May 8 in the case.