Jailed Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson Khaleda Zia was kept isolated in a makeshift courtroom at Bakhshibazar in Old Dhaka during hearing in GATCO graft case on Thursday.
After hearing for about 45 minutes, Khaleda’s defence counsel were, however, allowed to consult the former prime minister on legal issues in the presence of law enforcers.
Judge Abu Syed Dilzar Hossain of the Special Judge’s Court 3 also issued warrants for the arrest of former state minister for power, energy and mineral resources AKM Mosharraf Hossain and former shipping minister Akbar Hossain’s son Ismail Hossain Saimon rejecting petitions moved by their counsel seeking time for their appearance due to their illness.
The court adjourned the hearing in framing of charges in the case until February 7.
Khaleda Zia was taken first time in the makeshift courtroom since February 8, 2018, when another court at the same place jailed her for five years for breaching of trust in Shaheed Ziaur Rahman Orphanage Trust graft case.
Her trials had been being held in a makeshift courtroom set up inside old Dhaka Central Jail since September 5, 2018.
In light-pink chiffon sari, Khaleda was seen sitting in a wheelchair at an isolated place in the makeshift courtroom separated by a newly built wall closed to the judge’s dais. Usually, she sat in a separate chair in front of the dock.
’I cannot see you honourable judge,’ said heavy-guarded Khaleda soon after the hearing had begun.
She said that if necessary she could be placed in the dock.
The judge said that he would consider the matter on next date of trial, and continued referring an High Court order for completing the trial within six months.
Anti-Corruption Commission prosecutor Mosharaf Hossain Kajol told the court that it was a 12-year-old and the trial should be commencing without any delay.
Khaleda’s counsel Mahbub Uddin Khokon said that the High Court had stayed the trial after the charge sheet was submitted as the defence counsel had challenged the case.
The court reminded the defence counsel that he had a binding to complete the trial within six months.
Khaleda’s another counsel AJ Mohammad Ali argued that as per the law, the hearing could not proceed without providing necessary documents to the defence.
The defence counsel again pointed out why Khaleda was kept isolated in the courtroom.
Prosecutor Mosharaf started shouting that all the accused should be in the dock.
’Let the court issue decide. You cannot direct the court,’ AJ Mohammad Ali replied Mosharaf.
Mahbub Uddin told the court that this trial was being monitored locally and internationally, and due course of law should be followed.
The court adjourned the trial and allowed the defence counsel to consult Khaleda, whose lower portion was seen covered with white cloth.
The police cordoned off Khaleda and her aide Fatema Begum and later took them back to a part of Dhaka Central Jail, where Khaleda had been living since February 8, 2018.
After the hearing, Mosharraf told New Age that they would call the authorities concerned to shift the court inside the Dhaka Central Jail.
On September 2, 2007, during the military-backed interim regime, the Anti-Corruption Commission filed the GATCO graft case accusing Khaleda and 12 others of causing a loss of Tk 145.64 crore to the national exchequer by awarding the contract of container handling at the Chittagong port and the Dhaka’s Inland Container Depot to GATCO.
On September 27, 2007, Khaleda had filed a petition with the HC challenging the legality of the inclusion of the case under the Emergency Powers Act and seeking a stay order on the trial proceedings. The case has been stayed since July 29, 2007.
On November 25, 2018, High Court directed the trial court to complete trial of the case in six months.