Former Bangladeshi PM Khaleda Zia has been sentenced to five years in jail for corruption.
Police have clashed with thousands of protesters as the opposition leader has been jailed.
She denies misusing international funds donated to a charitable children’s trust.
Begum Khaleda Zia became the country’s first female head of government in 1991 after leading the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to victory in Bangladesh’s first democratic election in 20 years.
She returned to the post of prime minister in 2001, stepping down in October 2006 ahead of a general election.
Khaleda Zia is the widow of former Bangladeshi President Ziaur Rahman.
Her political career has been marred by corruption allegations and a long-standing political rivalry with Awami League leader and the current prime minister, Sheikh Hasina.
The two women have alternated from government to opposition for most of the past two decades.
Image source Wikimedia
The 72-year-old’s jail sentence may mean she is barred from parliamentary polls due later this year.
The case is one of dozens pending against Khaleda Zia, a long-time rival of PM Sheikh Hasina.
The charges against her had already led to her boycotting elections in 2014, which triggered widespread protests at the time.
For today’s verdict there was heightened security across the capital and other cities. Many stores and schools were shut, reports said.
According to Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), hundreds of its supporters were arrested in the run-up to the verdict.
Khaleda Zia has described the charges against her as politically motivated.
As she went into court, the former prime minister told weeping relatives: “I will be back. Do not worry and be strong”, according to the Daily Star.
The verdict was read out in a court in Dhaka after police used tear gas to disperse thousands of her supporters.
According to local reports, several police officers were injured in the violence.
Khaleda Zia was led away to jail minutes after the verdict, bdnews24 reported.
Her son Tarique Rahman was given 10 years in jail in absentia as he is in London. The same jail term was handed down to four of her aides.
Khaleda Zia’s trial centered around $252,000 intended for an orphanage trust set up when she was prime minister. She was found guilty of embezzling the funds.
A warrant for the arrest of Bangladesh’s opposition leader Khaleda Zia has been issued amid a political stand-off in the country.
The court in Dhaka issued the arrest warrant after Khaleda Zia failed to appear in connection with a corruption case.
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader denies embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars in charitable funds.
Khaleda Zia’s party is engaged in a major confrontation with PM Sheikh Hasina’s government.
Last month Khaleda Zia urged her supporters to go on strike and block roads and railways to force Sheikh Hasina to call fresh elections.
Since then at least 100 people have died in clashes around Bangladesh.
The BNP boycotted polls in January 2014, saying they would be rigged.
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Bangladeshi opposition activists and police clashed as the country is holding a general election boycotted by the opposition.
At least three people were killed in unrest on Sunday. Scores have died in the run-up to the polls.
Dozens of polling stations have been torched and voting is suspended at more than 100. Polling is said to be thin.
The opposition is boycotting the vote with a two-day strike against what it called a “scandalous farce”.
PM Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League is assured of victory, with government candidates already declared victors by default in many seats.
She rejected demands for her to step down and a neutral government to oversee the poll, as in previous years.
“The polls opened across the country at 08:00,” said election commission spokesman SM Asaduzzaman. Voting will continue until 16:00.
In more than half of constituencies there is no voting at all, because the opposition boycott has led to government candidates being declared winners in advance.
Police opened fire as protesters tried to take over polling station in northern Rangpur district, killing three people.
In Nilphamari district, police also fired on about two dozen protesters. One person died.
Bangladesh votes amid violence and boycott
In the opposition stronghold of Bogra, the police chief told AFP: “We’ve seen thousands of protesters attack polling booths and our personnel at a number of locations with Molotov cocktails and petrol bombs.”
Media reported that more than 100 polling stations were torched overnight – adding to a similar number the night before.
One polling station in Dhaka’s Mirpur district recorded only 25 ballots out of 24,000 registered voters in the first two hours, AP reported.
Security is tight, with some 50,000 troops reportedly deployed around the country for the election.
Given the arson attacks and attempts to steal ballot papers and despite the heavy police presence, voters are wary about how secure they would be in coming to the polling stations.
The opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP) began a nationwide 48-hour strike on Saturday a day after its leader Khaleda Zia urged supporters to “completely boycott” what she called a “scandalous farce” of an election.
She accused the government of placing her under house arrest – something the authorities deny.
The strike is only the latest in a string of protests by the BNP and its allies – including the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party – that has seen a blockade of roads, railways and waterways and the closure of shops, schools and offices.
In the run-up to the polls, scores of opposition supporters died in police shootings and dozens of commuters were burnt to death by protesters throwing petrol bombs at strike-defying buses.
All elections since 1991 have been held under a neutral caretaker administration to ensure that voting is not fixed.
But the Awami League abolished the caretaker system in 2010, arguing that it was no longer necessary. It used its two-thirds majority in parliament to make the change.
The government has insisted that the BNP should take part in the polls within the existing constitutional framework. It says that the opposition should discuss any changes it wants after the vote.
Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia – who are bitter political enemies – have alternated from government to opposition for most of the past two decades.
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Bangladesh’s main opposition party and its allies have decide to begin a three-day strike over the government’s failure to set up a caretaker cabinet in the run-up to the country’s general elections.
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party party (BNP), led by Khaleda Zia, is calling for the government to step aside ahead of the polls due in January.
The strike is going ahead despite pleas from PM Sheikh Hasina.
In comes after at least six people were killed during fresh unrest on Friday.
The violence flared as police and protesters clashed in some parts of the country, leaving more than 100 injured.
The strike began at 06:00, with the BNP and its Islamist ally the Jamaat-e-Islam hoping to bring the country to a standstill.
Three people were killed and dozens injured in Bangladesh Friday when security officials clashed with opposition supporters trying to defy a ban on protests, in Dhaka
They want to force the prime minister to allow a neutral caretaker administration to oversee the election process.
But Sheikh Hasina, who heads the Awami League, has rejected such a plan saying there is no scope for unelected people to supervise the vote.
Khaleda Zia announced that the national shutdown would be going ahead from Sunday, despite a rare phone call with Sheikh Hasina in which the the prime minister asked her to call off the strike.
It is thought to be the first time the bitter rivals have spoken directly for a decade.
The BNP and its allies are refusing to participate in elections under current constitutional provisions, which do not allows for a neutral, caretaker government, or require the incumbent prime minister to step down during the interim period.
The opposition fears the government will rig the polls if it remains in power.
Friday’s violence came as security officials opened fire on opposition supporters trying to defy a ban on protests.
Two people were killed in the coastal district of Cox’s Bazar, according to reports.
Local media said at least two people had died in the central district of Chandpur, while protesters also died in the northern town of Jaldhaka and the northern district of Nilphamari.
Demonstrators set vehicles on fire in the capital Dhaka.
A series of rulings against Jamaat have led to violent protests across Bangladesh, with more than 150 people killed in clashes with police since the beginning of this year.
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