Former prime minister Khaleda Zia, the key suspect in the Niko graft case, has demanded that the court summon Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The BNP chief made the demand in the hearing of the case by the Ninth Special Judge’s Court of Dhaka at its temporary courtroom set up inside the old jailhouse on the Nazimuddin Road on Thursday.
Khaleda is the lone prisoner in the abandoned jailhouse, where she was moved back to from the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University earlier in the day after a month of treatment.
“The incumbent prime minister was involved in the incident this case refers to. She had also been accused. Why isnt she summoned?” Khaleda asked judge Mahmudul Kabir.
The Anti-Corruption Commission started the case during the military-controlled government in 2007 accusing Khaleda and 10 others of causing a loss of around Tk 137.77 billion by abusing power to award a gas exploration and extraction deal to Canadian company Niko during her 2001-06 tenure as the prime minister.
Khaleda was jailed for five years in February in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case, which was later doubled to 10 years by the High Court. A trial court also sentenced her to seven years in jail last month in Zia Charitable Trust graft case.
A wheelchair-bound Khaleda appeared in court around 12pm on Thursday.Senior BNP leader Moudud Ahmed, one of the accused in the case, opened the hearing on the charges against himself.
Moudud said at hearing that last more than an hour that the Niko deal was approved during the Awami League governments 1996-2001 tenure before the BNP-led coalition came to power.
“We only continued the previous governments decision. Thats the rule. We only signed the deal after they had approved it,” he said.
He also said some other people, including Hasina, had been cleared of the similar charges in a separate case over the same deal.
At this stage, Khaleda said The Awami League would have raised question if her government had not signed the deal. “They would have asked why we had not approved the deal if we had scrapped it,” she told the court.
“The incumbent prime minister was involved. She should appear before court. Make her appear and explain,” she added.
“The incumbent prime minister was involved. She should appear before court. Make her appear and explain,” she told the court.
“She (Hasina) isnt accused in the case. So the question of her appearance doesnt arise,” Judge Mahmudul replied.
The ACC had started a case against Hasina and some others in another case over the Niko deal on the same day it prosecuted Khaleda. The High Court dismissed the case against Hasina in 2010 after the Awami League returned to power. The court had observed that the case was started to harass Hasina.
WHY THE RUSH?
Moudud complained about the courtrooms condition at the hearing.
“It doesnt have even a toilet. What sort of court is it? I dont get it why the trial should continue here,” he said.
The judge then requested Moudud to continue with his argument so that the trial can end early.
“The trial wont proceed if you dont continue. It will increase her sufferings,” he said.
After placing arguments for around 20 minutes from 11:50am, Moudud said, “I am tired. I cant go on anymore. I am 81 now. I feel sick.”
ACC lawyer Mosharraf Hossain Kajal then demanded Moudud complete his argument within the day. “Dont seek more time,” he said.
“Why the rush?” Khaleda asked at the time.
The judge adjourned the hearing until Nov 14 after the hearing of the day.