Bangladesh says it will release jailed former prime minister

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh’s government will release imprisoned former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia for six months on the condition that she stays at home and does not leave the country, the law minister said Tuesday.

Anisul Huq said Zia, 74, is being released on humanitarian grounds considering her age.

Zia, the country’s opposition leader, was sentenced to 17 years in prison in two corruption cases. Her Bangladesh Nationalist Party says the cases were politically motivated. The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Zia’s archrival, denies the allegation.

Zia’s party says she is seriously ill with ailments including respiratory problems and arthritis. She is currently being treated in a prison cell at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University in Dhaka.

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“The government has decided to release her after staying her sentences, … showing its generosity because of her age and on humanitarian grounds,” Huq said. “She will receive her remaining treatment at home.”

He said the Ministry of Home Affairs will issue a notification for her release. It was not immediately clear exactly when she would be freed.

In February, the High Court rejected an appeal by Zia seeking her release for medical treatment in the United Kingdom for chronic arthritis.

Zia was convicted in February 2018 on charges of misusing her power by embezzling some $250,000 in donations meant for an orphanage trust. She was later convicted in another corruption case.

Zia and Hasina are both part of political dynasties. Zia is the widow of Ziaur Rahman, a general-turned-president who was assassinated in 1981. Hasina is the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country’s first president and independence leader, who was assassinated in 1975.

Bangladesh gained independence through a nine-month war against Pakistan in 1971.

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