BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia has said the trials are intended to stall her election preparations. “How will I participate in the election if I am kept busy with trial proceedings most of the time?” she asked Judge Mahmudul Hasan of the Dhaka Special Judges Court 9 during the Niko Graft hearing case on Wednesday. The BNP chairperson and her lawyers – Zainul Abedin and Mahbub Uddin Khokon – urged the judge to set the hearing date after the election.
After hearing from both sides, the court set up inside the old central jail, fixed January 3, for hearing on the charges framed in the Niko graft case filed against the BNP chairperson and others. The BNP chairperson was produced before the court in a wheelchair during the hearing. She also said the trial should not be held inside the old central jail as it lacks adequate air and light. She raised questions about why the trial was going on in such makeshift court and why a fast process was taken to dispose the case. Khaleda, while referring to the seven murder cases of Narayanganj said: “There are many sensitive and important cases out there, why are not those one prosecuted fast?” The BNP chairperson said police members stay too close to her citing security reasons for which she feels uncomfortable and she cannot properly talk to her lawyers as well.
“The police should stand at the entrance, not inside the courtroom,” she said. Pointing at the Public Prosecutor Mosharraf Hossain Kajol, Khaleda’s lawyer Masud Ahmed Talukdar in the courtroom said: “Awami League will make Kajol the state minister for conducting the case.” At the time, Khaleda said: “No he will be made full minister.”In reply to that, Kajol said: “Madam pray for me.” During the hearing, Barrister Moudud who is also an accused in the Niko Graft case represented himself before the court. On November 7, the Law Ministry issued a gazette notification, citing security reasons which read, the trial of Khaleda and others accused in the Niko corruption case will be held at the makeshift court in the Old Dhaka central jail.
On October 6, Khaleda was admitted to the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) after prison authorities shifted her there from jail for better treatment, after a court order was issued. On October 4, the High Court directed the government to immediately admit Khaleda Zia to the BSMMU and form a five-member medical board for her treatment. On November 8, Khaleda was again shifted back to the old central jail from BSMMU after she was produced before a court in Niko graft case. The BNP chief was released from BSMMU after the medical board formed for her treatment gave her discharge certificate. Khaleda was in the erstwhile of Old Dhaka central jail at Nazimuddin Road, since she was sentenced to five years imprisonment in the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case on February 8. The High Court on October 30 extended her term to 10 years imprisonment in the case.
Besides, Khaleda was also convicted in the Zia Charitable Trust corruption case and sentenced to seven years rigorous imprisonment by the Special Judges Court-5 on October 29. The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) on December 9, 2007 filed the Niko graft case against Khaleda and four others in connection to a loss of Tk137.77 of the national exchequer caused by the signing of an oil-gas exploration agreement with Canadian company Niko during the BNP regime.
The others accused in the case are Moudud Ahmed, former Law minister; AKM Mosharraf Hossain, former state minister for Energy; Kamal Uddin Siddique, former principal secretary to prime minister; Khandaker Shahidul Islam, former acting energy secretary; CM Yousuf Hossain, former senior assistant secretary of Energy and Mineral Resources Department; Meer Moynul Haque, former senior general manager of Bapex; Shafiur Rahman, former secretary of Bapex; Giasuddin Al Mamun, managing director of One Group; Selim Bhuiyan, chairman and managing director of International Travel Corporation and Kashem Sharif, vice-president (South Asia) of Niko Resources Bangladesh Ltd.