Amid heightening tensions and various speculations, a special court here on Thursday convicted former prime minister and BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia and sentenced her to five years' imprisonment in the much-talked-about Zia Orphanage Trust graft case.
Five other accused in the case, including her son and BNP senior vice-chairman Tarique Rahman, were sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment each. The court also fined the five accused Tk 2.10 crore each, reports UNB.
After Jatiya Party Chairman HM Ershad, Khaleda is the second head of the government who got convicted in a graft case.
Judge Md Akhtaruzzaman of the special court-5 handed down the verdict in the sensational case in his crowded courtroom at 2:30 pm amid tight security in and around the court.
The judge started reading out the summary of the 632-page verdict in presence of Khaleda Zia at 2:12 pm.
After conviction, Khaleda Zia was taken to Old Dhaka central jail on Najumuddin Road from Special Court-5 at Bakshibazar. Khaleda left the court in a white car around 3pm and reached the jail gate around 3:13 pm.
Earlier on January 25, Judge Akhtaruzzaman fixed the date for announcing the verdict after the defence had closed their arguments in the case.
However, BNP turned down the verdict against its chairperson and five others, and urged people to take to the streets to register their protests in a peaceful manner.
"This verdict is an anti-people one. It has gone against people's expectations. It was given only to appease one person. Justice is denied here," said BNP's senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi.
Forty minutes after the announcement of the verdict, the BNP leader came up with the instant reaction at the party's Nayapaltan central office.
Rizvi said the country's people have rejected the verdict with hatred. "We strongly condemned and protested it."
Hours after the verdict against BNP chief Khaleda Zia in a graft case, Law Minister Anisul Huq said the verdict has proved that no one is above the law, and the rule of law is prevailing in the country.
"By pronouncing the verdict, our judiciary has once again proved that no one in the country is above the law, no matter how powerful he or she is," he said.
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) filed the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case on July 3, 2008 with Ramna Police Station accusing Khaleda, her eldest son Tarique Rahman, now living in the UK, and four others of misappropriating over 2.10 crore that came as grants from a foreign bank for orphans.
Four other accused are former BNP MP Salimul Haq Kamal and businessman Sharfuddin Ahmed, former principal secretary Kamal Uddin Siddique and Mominur Rahman, nephew of late President Ziaur Rahman.
Kamal Uddin Siddique and Mominur Rahman have long been absconding.
The BNP chief is now facing around 36 cases filed with different courts and police stations across the country.