Bangladesh main opposition leader Khaleda Zia

Bangladesh sets up new court to try opposition leader

Bangladeshi authorities have set up a new makeshift court adjacent to a jail outside the capital Dhaka to try imprisoned opposition leader Khaleda Zia, a prosecutor said on Tuesday (May 14).

Zia, a two-time former prime minister, is already serving 10 years in two cases of graft that her supporters say were politically motivated.

She has faced a trial on new charges in a courtroom inside the abandoned prison in old Mughal-era Dhaka where she is the only prisoner.

Her supporters say this has affected her health and the 73-year-old has been in hospital since April.

But with a move under way to shift Zia to a new prison at Keraniganj, just outside the capital, the government has set up a new court adjacent to the jail, prosecutor Mosharraf Hossain told AFP.

"All 17 of her cases will be shifted to this court," Hossain said.

Zia, who entered politics in the mid-1980s after her military dictator husband was assassinated in an abortive coup, is a former ally turned arch foe of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Zia was originally jailed for five years in February 2018 after being convicted of corruption, a sentence that triggered clashes between police and thousands of BNP supporters. The jail term was later doubled by the country's high court.

She was found guilty then of embezzling money intended for an orphanage, a charge she dismissed as part of witch-hunt against her and her family.

Zia's lawyers condemned the decision to set up the makeshift court, saying it reflects a "cruel attitude" on the part of the government.

Her lawyer Zainul Abedin told AFP that Zia's condition was "not good" as she was not getting proper treatment at the state-run hospital.

Zia is diabetic and suffers from arthritis. She was also hospitalised in October for treatment.

Zia leads the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the main opposition party whose supporters and candidates were harassed and detained by security forces ahead of a national election in December.

Hasina won the election by a landslide. The BNP won just seven seats in the election marred by deadly violence and claims of widespread rigging.

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