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Bangladesh court doubles jail time for former prime minister

A Bangladesh court has doubled the jail time from five years to ten years for former prime minister, Begum Khaleda Zia for her involvement in the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case. 

The case accused her, along with five others including her son, of embezzling approximately $253,000 from foreign donations intended for an orphanage set up for the former president, Ziaur Rahman, who was Khaleda's former husband. 

The initial conviction for this crime was reached in February but the sentence has now been increased and follows a separate corruption charge in which she was jailed for seven years.

Her son, Tarique Rahman, is the party’s chief and has been in exile since he was accused of plotting to assassinate the prime minister in 2004. He currently resides in London. 

Her party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party have rejected the charges and have asserted that this is a political ploy to prevent her from running in the December election. Khaleda and Sheikh Hasina, the current prime minister have been the dominant figures in Bangladesh for the past two decades. Hasina’s party, Awami League, began its second consecutive term in 2014 after a violent election which the BNP boycotted.

The lawyers representing her have also notes that she suffers from arthritis and diabetes and has noted been admitted into a specialised care prison. They maintain that by doing so the government is putting her health at risk.

In responding to this ruling, BNP secretary-general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir stated, “this is an abnormal ruling which is a clear reflection of the government’s desire”. They scheduled nation-wide marches against the verdict for Tuesday.

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