Dhaka, Bangladesh
BNP request for Khaleda release reaches PM

Fakhrul-Quader teletalk takes place

BNP request for Khaleda release reaches PM

Now or not in near future

News Report: Party request for jailed BNP chief Khaleda's release is now placed with the prime minister and experts say there are two windows for that: parole or bail. A phone talk between the secretaries of the ruling Awami League and the opposition BNP Friday moved the matter up to the top political level, after a family appeal for release of the former prime minister for her advanced treatment abroad. Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader said BNP Secretary-General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir made a phone call to him on Friday evening and, during the parley, requested him to inform Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina about Khaleda's release. Obaidul Quader, also the road transport minister, told reporters later that the BNP proposal had already been conveyed to the prime minister. He mentioned one way of the release, that is, parole. And that has a process-a formal application is needed. Parole is a conditional release of an inmate before completion of the sentence. "He (Fakhrul) called me and requested me to place the issue before the Prime Minister. I've discussed it with the home and the law ministers. They didn't receive any application in this regard," Quader said. "It's a matter of the court. She is in jail in corruption cases. The government would have considered releasing her if it was a political case," he told the press at Awami League president's political office in Dhanmondi. Khaleda Zia has been in jail since February 8, 2018. She was convicted in two corruption cases filed during the post-1/11 regime. Her party insists that the cases are 'politically motivated'. The government denies. Quader said if BNP decides to apply for parole, they should mention why they are seeking it. Things moved faster on the day. Top BNP leaders sat with party leader-lawyers for a consultation on the matter in the evening. The meeting over, senior Supreme Court lawyer Khandker Mahbub Hossain told the media they would again move bail petition for her freedom through the court process. "We'll again move bail petition in the High Court and it's for the court to prove there's justice in the country," he said, indicating that now bail move would come on different grounds after the exhaustion of the previous one with the final apex-court rejection. Fakhrul Islam said Khaleda's family has already made an appeal for her release on humanitarian grounds for her better treatment. Khaleda Zia, a former prime minister, has been in jail since February 8, 2018. She was convicted in two corruption cases. Her party insists that the cases are politically motivated but the government denies the charges. A 'special petition' was learnt to have 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, too, 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 had said Thursday. The BNP chief's family members met her at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) Hospital Tuesday 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 then 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 found out 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 were 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 held the view that the convict has to apply for availing this scope. Pointing at the Code of Criminal Procedure, 401(1), the 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 had said while talking to reporters at his office at the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Law Minister Anisul Haque also had said at the time that 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 had told the media. Khaleda Zia has been in jail since February 8, 2018 after she was sentenced to five years' imprisonment in Zia Orphanage Trust graft case. The term was later doubled to ten. She has also been convicted in another case--Zia Charitable Trust graft-for seven years. 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. Some of them are of the opinion that political conditions have largely been met through the former ruling party's changed policy and activity---they have renounced violent poll boycott, joined the last parliament and local elections and are in the present parliament. It has also opened a liberal democratic front with the floating of the Jatiya Oikya Front headed by a former Awami Leaguer and other breakaway AL leaders and civil-society persons. Meanwhile, BNP has a set programme of demonstrations for today on the demand for the party chief's freedom.

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