Bangladesh Releases Former PM Khaleda Zia Amid COVID-19 Crisis
File image of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairperson Khaleda Zia. 
File image of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairperson Khaleda Zia. (Photo: IANS)

Bangladesh Releases Former PM Khaleda Zia Amid COVID-19 Crisis

Bangladesh on Wednesday released jailed former prime minister and main opposition leader Khaleda Zia for six months on condition that she would stay at home, amid the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

The 74-year-old opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party chief is serving a 17-year prison term in two graft cases since February 8, 2018.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said Zia was freed conditionally on humanitarian grounds after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's approval.

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Wearing a mask and clad in a black saree, Zia came out of the jail in a wheelchair. She was flanked by her supporters and party workers. She rode a car to her home in Dhaka's Gulshan colony.

Earlier, Kamal said required procedures were completed for her release for six months under her younger brother Shamim Iskandar's custody on two conditions requiring her to stay at her residence during the period and she could not leave the country. Kamal said Zia would not be able to take part in any political activity during the period.

The development came a day after Zia's family sought her release in view of the COVID-19 outbreak.

"This is a decision we welcome," BNP leader Ruhul Kabir Rizvi told reporters in brief comments at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University premises. "I thank Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina," Zia's younger sister Selima Islam said.

Zia served thrice as the premier since 1991. Her party suffered a miserable defeat in the 2018 elections bagging only six seats in 300-seat parliament.

Her conviction on "moral turpitude" charges debarred her from contesting the polls. She was sent to jail in February 2018 by a local court on charges of embezzling foreign donations meant for an orphanage, named after her slain husband and president Ziaur Rehman, during her premiership between 2001 and 2006 .

Rehman, a military ruler-turned-politician, was the founder of the BNP. She was convicted in another corruption case later the same year, though her party claims both cases are politically motivated.

Also Read : Khaleda Zia's bail plea in corruption case rejected

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