Bangladesh opposition head granted bail in graft cases

Opposition leader and former PM Khaleda Zia appears in court after being confined to her office for three months.

    Zia is accused of embezzlement in two corruption cases involving charitable funds during her tenure as prime minister [AFP]
    Zia is accused of embezzlement in two corruption cases involving charitable funds during her tenure as prime minister [AFP]

    Bangladesh's former prime minister and main opposition leader Khaleda Zia has been granted bail in two graft cases after appearing before a special court.

    On Sunday, Zia appeared amid tight security before a special anti-graft court in the capital, Dhaka, to request bail more than a month after warrants for her arrest were issued, her lawyers said.

    The court's decision to grant her bail could be a sign of easing tension, Reuters news agency reported.

    Zia is accused of embezzling $650,000 in two corruption cases involving charitable funds during her last term as prime minister, from 2001 to 2006. She and leaders of her party have denied the charges, saying they are politically motivated.

    Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has intensified protests this year in a bid to force Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to step down and hold a new vote under a neutral caretaker administration after a disputed 2014 poll.

    Authorities had confined the 69-year-old former leader inside her office compound in an upscale district of Dhaka on January 3, after she threatened to lead a massive anti-government rally through the capital on the first anniversary of a disputed national election.

    Authorities denied confining the opposition leader to her office, saying the heavy police deployment was in response to Zia's request for security.

    The BNP refused to take part in the 2014 general election, saying it was rigged.

    More than 120 people have been killed and hundreds injured in violence - mostly in petrol bomb attacks on vehicles - amid transport blockades and strikes by the opposition aimed at toppling the government.

    Zia is also facing charges of instigating the violence.

    Bangladeshi politics have been mired for years in rivalry between Hasina and Zia. Both women are related to former national leaders, and they have alternated as prime minister for most of the past two decades.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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