DHAKA, Bangladesh – A judge on Monday sentenced Bangladesh's former prime minister, Khaleda Zia, to seven years in prison after she was found guilty of abusing her power to raise money for a charity fund named in the honor of her late husband.
His supporters view the numerous criminal cases against Zia and his party as attempts to weaken the opposition ahead of the elections scheduled for December. But the government says they have specific accusations against the defendants.
Zia, 73, was absent from the Dhaka-filled hearing room and her attorneys also waived the procedure, saying that they could not get justice. Earlier on Monday, the Supreme Court dismissed Zia's appeal to overturn the verdict.
Zia is serving a five-year prison sentence in another corruption case and was transferred to a hospital earlier this month for what her party has described as multiple medical problems. His party claims that both cases are politically motivated.
Judge Md Akhtaruzaman concluded that Zia had abused her power as she led the government in 2001-2006 by collecting $ 375,000 from unknown sources for the Zia Charitable Trust Fund, named in honor of Ziaur Rahman, former military leader and assassinated president in 1981.
The judge sentenced three other people, including a former Zia political secretary, to seven years in prison for collecting money.
Mosharraf Hossain Kajol, a prosecutor's attorney, said after the verdict that he was pleased that the judge sentenced the defendants to death.
Zia is facing more than 30 other cases pending in the country's courts. According to his Bangladeshi nationalist party, these cases are an abuse of government power, his longtime rival, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, demanding a third consecutive term in the upcoming elections.
Zia and her political partners boycotted the last general election in 2014, paving the way for Hasina's resumption of power despite protests and violence. The main right-wing partner of Zia, Jamaat-e-Islami, a fierce opponent of Hasina, is trying to regain strength after the execution of his main leaders for war crimes involving the 1971 independence war against Pakistan.
A newly formed opposition alliance, led by a prominent lawyer, calls for the resignation of Hasina and the formation of a neutral government at the time of the elections. But Hasina says she will lead the government according to the constitution to organize the elections. An electoral calendar is scheduled for the first week of next month.
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