Bangladesh ex-PM appeals 5-year jail sentence in graft case

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Former Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia appealed a five-year prison sentence in a corruption case on Tuesday, with her lawyers arguing that the verdict was politically motivated and influenced by the government.

Her conviction means that Zia, the opposition leader and archrival of the current prime minister, could be barred from running in December national elections.

Zia was convicted on Feb. 8 of misusing power in embezzling some $250,000 in donations meant for an orphanage trust established when she first became prime minister in 1991.

The court also sentenced Zia’s son, Tarique Rahman, and four others to 10 years in prison for involvement in the case.

Moudud Ahmed, a top aide to Zia and one of her counsels, told reporters after appealing to the High Court on Tuesday that the verdict was doctored by the authorities. The government has denied the allegation.

Bangladesh law says anyone imprisoned for more than two years cannot run for office for the next five years.

The chief election commissioner recently said that because of the verdict Zia is ineligible to run, but that the final decision would depend on the higher court.

Zia faces more than 30 other charges, ranging from corruption to sedition. Bangladesh politics are deeply fractious, with current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Zia ruling the country alternately since 1991, when democracy was restored.

Both women emerged from political dynasties. Zia is the widow of Ziaur Rahman, a general-turned-president who was assassinated in 1981. Hasina is the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country’s first president who was assassinated in 1975.

In the last election in 2014, Zia’s party and its political allies boycotted the race, allowing Hasina to return to power with a landslide victory.

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