Dhaka: Bangladesh to release its former Prime Minister and leader of the opposition, Khaleda Zia on humanitarian grounds for a period of six months.
Announcing the decision, Bangladesh’s Law Minister Anis Ul Huq stated, “We have decided to release her on humanitarian grounds as per the instructions of the prime minister.”
“She can receive treatment staying at her home, but she cannot go abroad,” he added.
Khaleda – 74, the leader of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), has twice served as the country’s Prime minister and leader of the opposition; she was incarcerated in February 2018 and sentenced for total 17 years following the conviction for the misuse of power by embezzling some $250,000 donations dedicated for orphanage trust.
The former Prime Minister has been suffering from various ailments including respiratory problems and arthritis.
In April last year, she was moved to a prison cell at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University in the capital, Dhaka.
Expressing his views on the release of her sister, Shamim Iskander said, “We’re very happy with the decision.”
In a statement issued from her party, Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said, “We have of course become emotional. We are somewhat relieved. But we are also afraid of the time of her release. May she be safe.”
“She is very ill. She is suffering from asthma as well as diabetes and arthritis. These become big problems if someone contracts the virus. Such patients are most vulnerable. “Please do not crowd outside the hospital and her home. It will increase her health risk,” he added.
Earlier, Khaleda’s sister Selima Islam had filed an application with the Home Ministry for her release on medical grounds. The government has suspended her sentence for six months according to the sub-section 1 of the Section 401 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
Khaleda Zia and her political rival and the current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed are both part of political dynasties. While Khaleda is the widow of Ziaur Rahman, a general-turned-president. While asina is the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country’s first president and independence leader, who was assassinated in 1975.
The United States, which has good relations with Bangladesh, welcomed the decision to free Zia and pointed out concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The global pandemic “needs leadership that is compassionate and prioritizes national unity,” Alice Wells, the top US diplomat for South Asia, wrote on Twitter.