The government today temporarily released imprisoned BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia for a six-month period this afternoon, as she was being treated at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU).
Begum Zia came out in a wheel chair from the hospital, where she was being treated for some old age complications at around 4.15 pm. She directly reached her Gulshan residence at 5.16 pm by a private car from the BSMMU compound, reports BSS.
Senior party leaders including BNP’s secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir were present during the time and were seen struggling to keep away the party activists in view of the COVID-19 outbreak saying the social distancing was crucial for their 74-year-old ailing leader.
Extra armed policemen were called out to maintain discipline at the scene.
Witnesses said Khaleda’s personal aide Fatema, who was allowed under a special initiative to accompany Khaleda inside the prison earlier, responding to her request, too was seen coming out of the hospital and getting onboard in a separate car.
Khaleda stayed at the hospital for the past 12 months under prison custody.
Hours ahead of her release under a government executive order, home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told newsmen that official formalities were exhausted to conditionally release Khaleda.
He said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina used a special discretion to free her on “humanitarian ground” as Khaleda’s brother Shamim Eskandar and sister Selima Rahman recently met the premier with an appeal for her release.
Ahead of meeting with the premier, the family applied to the home ministry to seek Zia’s release and eventually she was freed under Shamim Eskandar’s custody on two conditions – requiring her stay at her residence during the period when she could not leave the country either.
Kamal said being a convict with charges of “moral turpitude”, Zia would not be able to take part in any political activity during the period which earlier barred her from contesting polls as well.
“This (decision) proved again that Sheikh Hasina is the ‘mother of humanity’ . . . she was declined entry as she went to console Zia after her younger son’s death few years ago,” the home minister said.
Moreover, Kamal said Khaleda repeatedly celebrated her fake birthday on August 15, a day which is the most painful day for Sheikh Hasina.
Law minister Anisul Huq yesterday broke the news of the government’s decision saying, “the decision has been taken on humanitarian grounds considering her age in line with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s directives”.
Khaleda’s BNP suffered a miserable defeat in the December 30 in 2018 elections bagging only six seats in 300-seat parliament.
The ex-premier landed in jail after a court on February 8 last year originally handed her down a five-year prison term on charges of embezzling foreign donations meant for an orphanage, named after her husband and BNP’s founder slain president Ziaur Rahman, during her 2001-2006 premiership.
Zia is faced with several other pending criminal and graft charges as well while legal process are underway to initiate her trial in those cases as well while her elder son and acting BNP chief Tarique Rahman is in London to evade justice in several criminal and graft charges.
Under one of the charges, Tarique is wanted for masterminding August 21, 2004 grenade attack on a rally of Sheikh Hasina, the then main opposition party Awami League, which she narrowly escaped but 24 others were killed.