BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia was released on Wednesday from jail for six months suspending her sentences following an executive order over 25 months after she had been convicted and sent to jail in graft cases.
The government passed the executive order for her release upon two conditions -- receiving treatment staying at her Gulshan residence and not leaving the country.
The BNP chief, who has been undergoing treatment at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) since April 1 last year, was brought down to the ground floor of the hospital’s Cabin Block from room number 612 around 4:10pm, as her release order reached the jail authorities on completion of all necessary procedures.
But it took 10 minutes to bring her out of the hospital due to overcrowding by her relatives and party leaders and activists.
Wearing a pink colour sari and sunglasses with mask in her mouth, the 75-year-old BNP chief get into the vehicle of her younger brother Shamim Eskandar to go to her Gulshan residence.
Shamim himself drove the car while his wife Kaniz Fatema sat with Khaleda in the rear seat.
Though the roads were almost empty, it took her nearly an hour to reach her Gulshan house as huge party leaders and activists escorted the vehicle carrying her up to Karwanbazar before law enforcers dispersed them by charging batons.
Khaleda’s sister Selima Islam, her husband Rafiqul Islam, her late brother Sayeed Eskandar’s wife Nasrin Eskandar and some other family members received her with a bouquet as she reached her home after two years, one month and 16 days.
Selima and Kaniz helped the BNP chief get down from the car. Later, she was taken to the house in a wheelchair.
Several hundred BNP leaders and workers also gathered in front of Khaleda’s house as they did it on the premises of BSMMU amid the risk of coronavirus spread.
They raised various slogans as the car carrying her entered her house, Firoza.
Talking to reporters there, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul said their chairperson is sick. “We thank Allah as we’ve been able to take her to her residence. We’ll talk to her physicians and take steps for her treatment.”
Meanwhile, Firoza, the posh home of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia at Road No 79 in Dhaka’s Gulshan area which turned into an abandoned house since she went to jail, was prepared, dewormed and sanitised for her comfortable stay there.
As the government announced on Tuesday that the 75-year-old BNP chief would be released from jail for six months, the house was cleaned, dewormed and refurbished to welcome Khaleda, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told UNB.
Until she landed in jail in 2018, Khaleda Zia had been living in the two-storey rented house with a lush green lawn built over a bigha land, since April 2011 as had to 'leave her long-time home in Dhaka cantonment on November 13, 2010 following a High Court verdict.
Earlier, the release order of Khaleda reached the BSMMU around 3pm.
Khaleda’s lawyers made repeated attempts over the last four months to ensure her release through the legal process, but failed to get bail even from the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.
Later, the BNP chief’s family submitted an application to the government early this month seeking an executive order to have her released for her treatment in London.
Her brother Shamim Eskandar, sister Selima Islam, and her (Selima’s) husband Dr Rafiqul Islam met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and made an appeal for her release through the executive order.
On Tuesday, said Law Minister Annisul Huq said the government decided to free former prime minister’s sentences suspending her sentences in two grafts cases as per section 401 (1) of Criminal Code of Procedure (CrPC).
He also sent the recommendation for the conditional release of Khaleda to the Home Ministry.
The Home Ministry sent the file of the executive order in this regard to the Prime Minister’s Office for approval Wednesday morning.
Upon approval of the file by the Prime Minister, it was sent to the BSMMU through the jail authorities.
Khaleda was sent to Old Dhaka Central Jail after she had been sentenced to five years’ imprisonment by a special court in the Zia Orphanage Trust corruption case on February 8, 2018.
The High Court later raised her punishment to 10 years in the case following an appeal by the Anti-Corruption Commission.
The lower court also sentenced imprisoned Khaleda to seven years in Zia Charitable Trust corruption the same year, though her party claims both cases are politically motivated.
She was admitted to BSMMU on April 1 2019 following an order of the apex court.
Overcrowding at BSMMU
Defying Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir’s instruction, BNP’s leaders and activists overcrowded the gate of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) to receive Khaleda as she walked out of its prison cell.
Khaleda’s family members, lawyers and some senior BNP leaders, including its secretary general Fakhrul, had been there.
Fakhrul and some other leaders repeatedly urged the party leaders and activists with a loudspeaker to move away from the BSMMU premises, but their calls went unheeded.
Law enforcers also failed to convince the BNP activists to leave the area considering Khaleda’s safety, said an official.
Though most of the BNP leaders and followers were seen wearing masks and other personal protective equipment, some others had no safety equipment, causing a matter of worry as expert suggested avoiding such gatherings to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Such a gathering posed a serious health risk to the patients at the country’s premier hospital and the journalists present there since coronavirus has already spread the country.
Journalists were seen expressing their deep concern over their safety as BNP leaders made it difficult for them to discharge their professional duties by taking position around them.
Asked about the gathering, BNP Dhaka South City unit President Habibunnabi Khan Sohel said their party leaders and activists gathered there out of their affection for Khaleda. “Party leaders and activists thronged in front of the hospital as they could not hold back their emotion seeing their party chief after a long time.”
After the government announced to free Khaleda on Tuesday, Fakhrul called upon BNP leaders and activists not to gather Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and hold back their emotion for the safety of Khaleda and other patients at the hospital amid the spread of coronavirus in the country.
Fatema also comes out
With the release of Khaleda Zia, her home-help Fatema Begum who had accompanied the BNP chief voluntarily, also came out of the BSMMU prison cell jail on Wednesday, after over 25 months.
Khaleda and Fatema, left the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) for her Gulshan residence around 4:20pm.
BNP sources said Fatema will be staying with Khaleda at her home, Firoza, in the city’s Gulshan area to look after her as she did so in jail.
Fatema joined Khaleda in the old central jail at Nazimuddin Road in the capital on February 8, 2018 as the jail authorities allowed her to remain there to assist her following a plea of the BNP chief’s lawyers to the court.