BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia (R) sits in a car in front of BSMMU at
Shahbagh in the capital yesterday after being released, for medical
reasons, from prison. AFP PHOTO
BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia was finally released yesterday afternoon, more than two years after she landed in jail in a graft case. She was freed on an executive order of the government.
The former premier was taken to her residence ‘Firoza’ at Gulshan amid tight security from Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hospital, where she was undergoing treatment in the prison cabin.
Khaleda left the BSMMU around 4:15pm.
It took about an hour to reach her Gulshan residence, as a large number of party leaders and activists gathered in front of the BSMMU and on the way to her residence.
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, among others, was present at the BSMMU to receive Khaleda and take her to her residence. After reaching Khaleda’s residence, Fakhrul said they would take a decision about the treatment of the former premier in consultation with doctors.
However, sources said Khaleda would be put under home-quarantine for 14 days in view of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
The government yesterday announced its decision to release Khaleda, suspending her sentence for six months on humanitarian grounds. The BNP chief landed in jail on February 8, 2018, after a special court sentenced her to five years' imprisonment in the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case.
On October 30 that year, the High Court (HC) raised her punishment to 10 years after dismissing her appeal.
The same special court jailed Khaleda and three others for seven years in the Zia Charitable Trust corruption case on October 29 that year. The HC rejected her bail petition three times and the Supreme Court once in this case.
On Tuesday, the government decided to release Khaleda from prison for six months, with some conditions, on humanitarian grounds. Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia is going to be released from prison shortly.
On Tuesday, law minister Anisul Huq said the sentences of the former prime minister have been suspended as per Section 401 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). The BNP chairperson was serving a 17-year term in two separate graft cases. Khaleda was being treated at the BSMMU since April 1 last year for old-age complications.
The government also put two conditions on her release: she will receive treatment by staying at her residence and will not be able to leave the country.
Khaleda, who had been in jail since she was convicted in the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case on February 8, 2018, was found guilty in another corruption case later the same year. However, the BNP claims both the cases are politically motivated.
Khaleda’s younger brother, Shamim Iskander, took the BNP supreme to her residence in his car. Law enforcers had to face difficulty in taking Khaleda from the BSMMU by making way through thousands of party supporters.
Wearing a pink saree and scarf, Khaleda walked out of the hospital at about 4:15pm. She had a surgical mask on and was wearing a pair of chocolate colour sunglasses. Shamim Iskander’s wife Kaniz Fatema accompanied her in the car, while her maid servant, Fatima, was taken in another car.
After receiving the jail order at 3:30pm, the BSMMU authorities withdrew prison guards from the front of cabin number 621 and 622 and Khaleda was formally freed.
When the car carrying Khaleda reached ‘Firoza’, Khaleda’s family members, including her sister Selima, husband Rafiqul Islam, Said Iskander’s wife Nasrin Iskander, and Jobaida Rahman’s sister Shahina Khan Jaman Bindu greeted her by offering floral bouquets.
She was taken in a wheel-chair, while several hundred party supporters thronged in front of her residence and chanted slogans.
BNP leaders Mirza Alamgir, Dr Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, barrister Moudud Ahmed, Mirza Abbas, Selima Rahman, Iqbal Hasan Mahmud Tuku, Dr AZM Zahid Hossain, Ishraque Hossain, Tabith Awal, among others, were present on the occasion.
Talking to reporters, Fakhrul expressed gratitude to the Almighty for the release of Khaleda. "Madam is sick… measures will be taken to treat her in consultation with her and her doctors," he added.