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DHAKA: Bangladesh’s High Court on Monday gra­nted bail for four months to opposition leader and former Prime Minister Khale­­da Zia, who was jailed for five years on a corruption conviction and is awaiting an appeal.

Despite the decision, it was not immediately clear if or when Zia would be freed from jail.

Mahbubey Alam, the country’s attorney general, said after Monday’s ruling that a move against the bail order would be made in the High Court on Tuesday.

Lawyers said a two-member panel of judges considered the 72-year-old Zia’s age and health condition in granting the bail. Zia has had various health complications in the past.

A court convicted Zia on Feb 8 on charges of misusing her power and embezzling about $250,000. The conviction means that Zia, the arch rival of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, can be barred from running in December elections.

The court also sentenced Zia’s son, Tarique Rahman, and four others to 10 years in prison for involvement in the case. Rahman lives in London and was tried in absentia.

Bangladesh law says anyone imprisoned for more than two years cannot run for office for the next five years, but Law Minister Anisul Huq has said the final decision rests with the higher courts. Zia faces more than 30 other charges, ranging from corruption to sedition.

Bangladesh politics are deeply fractious, with rivals Hasina and Zia ruling the country alternately since 1991, when democracy was restored.

Both women came from political dynasties. Zia is the widow of Ziaur Rahman, a general-turned-president who was assassinated in 1981. Hasina is the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country’s independence leader and first president, who was assassinated in 1975 along with most of his family members.

Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2018