Khaleda Zia jailed for 5 years in corruption case

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Violent incidents are flaring up in parts of Bangladesh's capital Dhaka and elsewhere in the country on Thursday, as opposition leader, ex-prime minister Khaleda Zia was found guilty of a corruption charge and sentenced to five years in prison.

Dhaka, Feb 8 Terming Khaleda Zia's conviction in a corruption case as natural consequences of her past deeds, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today accused her arch-rival of looting public property and burning to death over 500 people in a "demonstration of extreme brutality".

Tarique Rahman, Zia's elder son, and four others were given 10 years of jail in the politically significant case.

Amid heightened security across Bangladesh, the special judge's court convicted the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chairperson of embezzling $252,000 in foreign donations for the Zia Orphanage Trust, bdnews24.com reported. "Do not worry and be strong", Khaleda said while trying to comfort her weeping relatives.

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The private television station Somoy said at least five police officers had been injured and two motorcycles torched during the clashes that broke out several kilometres (miles) from the court premises.

Legal experts said the verdict may jeopardise her career as she may be disqualified from contesting polls, including the general elections slated for December.

"The Bangladesh government's claims to be open and democratic ring hollow as it cracks down on political dissent", said the group's Asia director Brad Adams. "I am confident she will come out of jail".

The verdict was read out in a court in Dhaka after police used tear gas to disperse thousands of her supporters. If her lawyers apply for a certified copy of the verdict on Thursday and get the copy on the same day, they may not be able to file the appeal with the high court the same day. An opposition spokesman told Human Rights Watch that thousands had been detained including members of the BNP, the Islamist political party Jamaat-e-Islami, and others not linked to any party.

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