DHAKA: Bangladesh’s Supreme Court on Monday halted the release of opposition leader Khaleda Zia on bail, deepening a political crisis ahead of a national election due in December.

The top justices suspended a lower court’s decision to grant Khaleda Zia bail until May, prompting a sharp reaction from her lawyers who said it was part of a campaign by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to silence the opposition.

“It is an unprecedented or­­der in the judicial history of Bangladesh. We think it is not the decision of the top co­­urt, rather it is a government decision,” one of Khaleda Zia’s lawyers, Sanaullah Mia, said.

Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, secretary general of Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) said the order was a “reflection” of the government’s desire to keep Khaleda Zia confined during the election, which is widely expec­ted to be held in December.

“We’ve repeatedly said people are not getting justice in the country and the judiciary is controlled by the government,” Alamgir said.

The 72-year-old BNP lea­der was jailed for five years last month on charges of embezzling money intended for an orphanage.

The three times former prime minister, now being held in a special jail, has consistently dismissed the charges as politically motivated.

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2018

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