Bangladesh’s opposition leader faces bar from political office in Thursday verdict

Bangladesh’s opposition leader faces bar from political office in Thursday verdict

A verdict is expected today in the corruption trial of two-time prime minister and head of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party

Bangladesh opposition leader zia

Photo: AFP/Mehedi Hasan

A verdict is expected today in the corruption trial of two-time prime minister and head of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party Khaleda Zia.

The state-run Anti-Corruption Commission filed charges against Zia, her son and four others for allegedly misappropriating $260,000 from the Zia Orphanage Trust. BNP leaders claim that the ruling Awami League of PM Sheikh Hasina is using the charges to intimidate the opposition. Although only the orphanage trust case will be decided today, Zia and her powerful son have been charged in more than 100 combined criminal cases that range from money laundering to arson.

If convicted Zia and her son could be disqualified from holding political office, seriously jeopardising the political fate of the BNP ahead of next year’s election. Guilty verdicts could push the centre-right party with Islamist ties to seek more forceful means of exerting their political sway, perhaps through encouraging public protesting and strengthened ties with Islamist groups.

Despite a ban on street protests effective today, watchers should look out for massive public gatherings in Dhaka, which run a three-way risk of violence between BNP supporters, Awami League followers and the police.

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