A top Bangladesh court has ruled that opposition leader Khaleda Zia's trial over embezzlement charges should go ahead in a case that could see her jailed for life, a prosecutor has said.
The High Court rejected the former two-time premier's bid to quash the trial which had been scheduled to start in a lower court this week after she was indicted on charges of embezzling more than $650,000.
"Both her appeals have been rejected. There is no bar to continue her trial in the two cases," deputy attorney general Mohammad Selim told AFP news agency.
Zia's lawyers have called the charges politically motivated, aimed at destroying her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which has vowed to topple the government of arch rival Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Zia was indicted just weeks after Hasina was re-elected in a January 5 general election which the centre-right BNP and its 18 opposition allies boycotted and denounced as a farce.
Police detained thousands of opposition officials and supporters and charged many more during and after the election, which was the bloodiest in the country's short history.
Zia's lawyer Sanaullah Miah said he would now lodge an appeal in the Supreme Court, in a final attempt to stop the trial from going ahead in a special anti-corruption court in Dhaka.
"It is now clear that the government wants to put Zia in jail. That's why we are not getting any justice in any court," he told AFP.
The trial had been scheduled to start on Monday but was adjourned until after the two-judge bench of the High Court had ruled on the appeal.
Selim said the prosecution has "strong cases" against Zia and there was little chance of the defence succeeding in getting the trial halted.