Dhaka | Jailed former Bangladesh premier Khaleda Zia was today granted bail by a court in two cases related to her fake date of birth and for undermining the national flag.
Zia, who is in her seventies, is serving a five-year jail term after a court convicted her in February for embezzlement of foreign donations meant for an orphanage named after her husband and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) founder and slain president Ziaur Rahman while holding the post of the prime minister during 2001-06.
“The judge (of Metropolitan Sessions Judges Court) granted her bail in two cases one related to her ‘fake birth dates’ and the other for ‘undermining’ the national flag,” a prosecution lawyer said.
“The charges brought against her in these cases are bailable,” justice Imrul Kayes said while granting her bail.
Legal experts and court officials, however, said she was unlikely to be freed from the jail as she was facing several other charges.
The court, in November last year, ordered the arrest of Zia over her controversial birthday celebration, coinciding with the day of Bangladesh’s founder Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s assassination along with most of his family members on August 15, 1975.
An arrest warrant was issued by the court after she failed to appear on three consecutive days after being summoned for the hearing in the case.
Zia’s date of birth has been a major irritant in the political arena after she began celebrating the birthday on August 15 since 1996, when the ruling Awami League, led by Bangabandhu’s daughter and incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, returned to power after 21 years of political wilderness.
The complainant in the case, a journalist, said according to Zia’s marriage certificate she was born on August 9, 1944, while her first passport says her date of birth was August 5.
According to her school final exam mark sheet her date of birth is September 5, 1946 while her official biography, issued after she became the prime minister in 1991, mentions she was born on August 19, 1945.
In the other case, two courts had simultaneously issued arrest warrant against her in October 2017, after she “failed to appear” for the hearing in the case of “undermining of Bangladesh’s map and the national flag”.
She is facing trial in cases for inducting in her cabinet those people, who had opposed to the country’s independence in 1971 and subsequently convicted and hanged for committing crimes against humanity, siding with the Pakistani troops.
Earlier, the former premier was faced with several arrest warrants for being absent a number of cases against her, including graft charges, but evaded arrests after appearing in the courts.