September 5, 2018 / 5:00 PM / 18 days ago

Bangladesh ex-PM decries lack of justice over prison court hearing

DHAKA (Reuters) - Former Bangladesh premier Khaleda Zia said on Wednesday there was ‘no justice’ as she appeared before a makeshift court at a prison where she is serving a five-year sentence for corruption.

FILE PHOTO: Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia waves to activists as she arrives for a rally in Dhaka in this file picture taken January 20, 2014. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj/Files/File Photo

The hearing in the capital could escalate a rivalry between Khaleda and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who have dominated politics in Bangladesh for more than two decades.

Khaleda’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) on Wednesday announced rallies across the country for Saturday to protest the government’s decision to set up the court inside the prison.

“You can punish me as long as you want. I know there is no justice,” said Khaleda, 73, who was jailed in February and was brought to the court room in a wheelchair. The hearing was for a separate corruption case.

“I am extremely ill. My leg will swell if I sit for long. I can’t come here again and again in this condition,” she told the court.

Khaleda’s lawyers were not in court and later told reporters they condemned the decision to use the jail as a trial venue as “unconstitutional and illegal”.

Justice Minister Anisul Huq denied this. The next hearing starts on September 12.

A lawyer for Khaleda petitioned the Justice Ministry to demand cancellation of a gazette notification that said her trial will be held at the prison, her lawyer Sanaullah Miah told Reuters.

Khaleda and the BNP say the charges are part of a plot to keep her and her family out of politics. She and Hasina are both related to former national leaders.

Hasina won the 2014 election for a second five-year term after Khaleda boycotted the polls in protest at the scrapping of the practice of installing a neutral caretaker government to oversee elections.

The government of Hasina has been shaken by protests by tens of thousands of students in the past weeks before an election in December.

Finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith said on Wednesday the election could be held on Dec. 27.

Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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