Khaleda, freed by Hasina, goes into quarantine at Gulshan home

  • Staff Correspondent, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2020-03-25 15:33:36 BdST

The Sheikh Hasina government has conditionally released from jail Khaleda Zia, suspending the BNP chief’s sentence for six months, as it goes all out to combat the coronavirus outbreak in Bangladesh.

After serving 25 months for corruption cases, she was released through executive orders from Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University on Wednesday evening.

The former prime minister was driven to her Gulshan home, ‘Feroza’, as scores of supporters crowded her path and shouted slogans.

Dressed in pink and sporting sunglasses, she had her face covered with a mask. Her younger brother Shamim Eskandar drove her to ‘Feroza’ himself. His wife, Kaniz Fatema, too, was in the car.

The home ministry had earlier sent an order for Khaleda’s release to the prison authorities, after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina gave the go-ahead. The document reached the jail authorities at 2:10pm.

Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader said Hasina, being the head of government, “herself” released Khaleda.

A huge crowd gathered there to get a glimpse of Khaleda, raising coronavirus risks at a time when Bangladesh and the rest of the world are practising social distancing.

BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia was released from BSMMU on Wednesday after 25 months behind bars. The government suspended her prison term for six months conditionally on ‘humanitarian grounds’ amid a surge in coronavirus cases. Photo: Asif Mahmud Ove

The BNP chief’s personal security detail with five cars and a microbus were at the hospital premises while her Nissan Patrol SUV was already waiting to pick her up and take her to her Gulshan home.

BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said they wanted to keep Khaleda in “quarantine”. The leaders were discussing ways to keep her supporters away for some days, he said.

Several senior party leaders, including Mirza Fakhrul, and some of her family members were seen waiting at the hospital there for her release. After the formalities of her release ended at the cabin block, a new wheelchair was taken to sixth floor room 621.

The situation became chaotic when BNP supporters crowded the hospital. BNP secretary-general was then seen requesting the supporters to clear out the hospital premises.

BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia was released from BSMMU on Wednesday after 25 months behind bars. The government suspended her prison term for six months conditionally on ‘humanitarian grounds’ amid a surge in coronavirus cases. Photo: Asif Mahmud Ove

With 39 infected, five deaths and seven recoveries as of Wednesday afternoon, Bangladesh, too, is on the verge of cutting all communications across the country. The country is retreating from public life with more and more people staying indoors.

On Wednesday, the global death toll from the coronavirus hit 18,918 with the number of infections rising to 423,121, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 108,619 people have recovered from the infection.

Khaleda, who is ailing, had been receiving treatment in prison. Expressing concerns over Khaleda’s health amid ‘risks of coronavirus infection’, BNP lawyers demanded her release the day before.

BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia was released from BSMMU on Wednesday after 25 months behind bars. The government suspended her prison term for six months conditionally on ‘humanitarian grounds’ amid a surge in coronavirus cases. Photo: Asif Mahmud Ove

Khaleda has been in prison since February 2018 after she was sentenced to a total of 17 years in two graft cases involving Zia Orphanage Trust and Zia Charitable Trust.

She was initially kept at Old Dhaka’s abandoned central prison, but later on Apr 1, 2019 she was moved to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University for treatment.

In the past two years, Khaleda’s legal team had appealed several times for her bail but it was not granted. It was reported in the media that her family appealed to the home ministry for her temporary release in early March.

Three weeks after the appeal, Law Minister Anisul Huq on Tuesday said the government stayed the effectiveness of the court sentence in an executive order and decided to release Khaleda for six months on condition of receiving treatment at home and not travelling abroad.

"We have decided to release her on humanitarian grounds as per the instructions of the prime minister,” Anisul Huq said.

The law ministry sent a recommendation to the home ministry informing its decision. Then the home ministry sent the papers to the prime minister’s official residence Ganabhaban on Wednesday. Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan went to the Ganabhaban himself in the morning.

After the prime minister’s approval, the documents reached the home ministry on Wednesday afternoon. The ministry then issued a notice on Khaleda’s release and sent it to the jail. A jail officer then delivered the release papers to the hospital.