Dhaka, Bangladesh
Khaleda release: Now or none too soon

Special petition submitted

Khaleda release: Now or none too soon

News Report: A 'special petition' has been submitted to the medical board treating Khaleda Zia for allowing the jailed former prime minister to take necessary advanced healthcare abroad, which presupposes her release. On the question of her release, leaders from both sides of the political divide came up with their varied comments Thursday, referring to parole, court process, political will, movement and so. BNP secretary-general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said her release remains "in the hand of the government". A retort came later in the day from his ruling Awami League counterpart, Obaidul Quader. "Government has nothing to do-it's court's jurisdiction," he said. At a different function AL joint secretary and Information Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud said, "Begum Zia's family wants her to be freed on parole. But no such demand was heard from BNP. Even BNP secretary-general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, when asked about it, said that he didn't know anything about this matter." The BNP chief's family members met her at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) Hospital a couple of days back and came out with an open appeal for her release on health grounds. Her sister Selima Islam described Khaleda's physical condition as very bad as she is suffering from respiratory problem, and 'almost unable to speak'. "I call upon the government to consider her ailment and consider her current physical condition, respiratory problem and age. She should either be released or given bail on humanitarian grounds. We make this call to the government and demand her unconditional release," she told the press. To a question from reporters, BSMMU pro-VC Prof Dr Shahidullah Shikder said the BNP chief's family submitted a petition to the medical board for recommending her treatment abroad. "Her brother Shamim Iskander signed the application," the pro-VC of the medical university said. Now that all avenues for release of the jailed former prime minister and BNP chairperson on bail got exhausted, after the apex-court rejection, a legal byway opened for freeing Khaleda Zia. Remission or suspension of a convicted person on plausible reasons is provided for in section 401(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure 401(1). Senior lawyers from both sides and the law minister are in agreement on this legal provision. While the opposition counsel say the government can do it in the case of the BNP chief on its own accord, the government side holds the view that the convict has to apply for availing this scope. Pointing at the Code of Criminal Procedure, 401(1), senior Supreme Court lawyer and Khaleda counsel Khandaker Mahbub Hossain recently demanded suspension of her sentence to allow her to take treatment abroad as per her will. The section says: "When any person has been sentenced to punishment for an offence, the government may at any time, without conditions or upon any conditions which the person sentenced excepts, suspend the execution of his sentence or remit the whole or any part of the punishment to which he has been sentenced." This point and the demand were pointed out to the chief law officer. In response, Attorney-General Mahbubey Alam said the government may look into the suspension of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia's sentence upon an appeal in this regard. "Usually, any sentence is suspended if a convict serves jail term for a long time. The government can suspend jail term of such convicts under special considerations. If they (BNP) can make out such a case, then the government will look into it," he said while talking to reporters at his office at the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Law Minister Anisul Haque also said this section of the criminal law is applicable to prisoner release. "But they have to apply, and it's the president's prerogative, not government's jurisdiction," he told the media on the day. Khaleda Zia has been in jail since February 8, 2018 after she was sentenced to five years' imprisonment in Zia Orphanage Trust graft case. She has also been convicted in another case--Zia Charitable Trust graft. She has been under treatment at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) since April 1 last. Analysts are of the view that, after all this, she can be set free "now or none too soon". The last recourse left is for her party to secure her freedom through what they say a mass movement or she walks to freedom after serving the jail terms-seemingly a long way off. (Inputs taken from agencies, media reports)

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