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Khaleda Zia appears in court in graft cases after 3 months


Dhaka:  Bangladesh’s opposition chief and former premier Khaleda Zia today appeared in a court here, leaving her office for the first time in nearly three months, amid signs that the country’s political deadlock was easing.

The 69-year-old Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chairperson left her upmarket Gulshan office where she has been staying since January 3 to challenge an arrest warrant issued against her in two graft cases involving over USD 650,000 which could see her jailed for life.

There were visible signs of easing political tension in the volatile country – where over 130 people have been killed in the past 90 days, as police overnight allowed party activists to enter their central office after three months.

Witnesses and private TV channels said Zia, who is also a three-time prime minister, reached the court at Bashibazar area in old part of Dhaka while her motorcade was piloted by a police car as she came out of her office located on the other side of the capital.

Zia’s court appearance came 39 days after a judge issued an arrest warrant for repeated absence from trial in graft cases involving two charities named after her husband slain president Zia-ur Rahman.

Police, however, earlier claimed that the court warrant did not reach the concerned police station for which they could not comply with the order to arrest her.

“Her (Zia) lawyers have submitted a bail petition and hearing on the prayer is underway… she is seated in the dock,” according to a witness coming out of the court room.

Zia’s office was kept under heavy security and she was confined there since a political unrest gripped the country beginning January 5, coinciding with the first anniversary of a divisive poll that was boycotted by the main opposition for “lack of a level-playing field”.

Police also barred Zia from coming out of her office on January 5 to join a protest, called by her party defying a ban, on the grounds of “law and order concerns”.

BNP leaders earlier said that in case she secures a bail, Zia was likely to return to her residence after three months and might briefly visit the party’s central Nayaaltal office along with some party leaders on her way back.

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