Bangladesh turns down jailed former PM Khaleda Zia's request to fly abroad for treatment

By Anisur Rahman
     Dhaka (PTI) May 9 (PTI) Bangladesh on Sunday rejected a petition by jailed former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia to go abroad on a medical visit, saying "there is no judicial provision that permits a jailed convict to go abroad for treatment".
     The 76-year-old chief of main Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), who is serving a 17-year jail term on charges of embezzling foreign donations, has been temporarily released from prison amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
     Zia contracted the virus in early April. As per the doctors, she has now tested negative for the infection and is recovering at a hospital here.
     "There is no judicial provision that permits a jailed convict to go abroad for treatment," Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan told a news briefing on Sunday, hours after the Law Ministry turned down a petition on her behalf seeking permission to fly abroad for further treatment.
     Officials said the Law Ministry reviewed the legal scope and barriers for Zia's visit abroad and sent its opinion to the minister.
     The government officially turned down the application after Zia's doctors said she had tested negative for the virus.
     "The third phase test has found her COVID-19 negative but she is now in hospital for post COVID-19 treatments," said Zia's doctor and BNP vice chairman AZM Zahid Hossain.
     Doctors close to the family said uncontrolled diabetes and arthritis had complicated the former prime minister's treatment.
     "It is a matter of hope that she is showing a sign of progress, though her health condition requires her to stay in CCU (critical care unit) of the hospital," said BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.
     "You know she is suffering from different ailments many of which aggravated due to her imprisonment and age," he added.
     Zia tested positive for coronavirus on April 11 and was admitted to a private hospital on April 27 after she had trouble breathing. She was shifted to the hospital's critical care unit on May 3.
     On May 6, Zia's younger brother Shamim Eskandar met the home minister seeking permission for Zia's treatment abroad. The application was forwarded to the Law Ministry.
     Zia is serving a 17-year prison term in two graft cases since February 8, 2018.
     She was sent to jail by a local court on charges of embezzling foreign donations meant for an orphanage, named after her slain husband and president Ziaur Rehman, during her premiership between 2001 and 2006.
     Rehman, a military ruler-turned-politician, was the founder of the BNP.
     She was convicted in another corruption case later the same year, though her party claims both cases are politically motivated.
     In March 2020, Zia was released from jail for six months on condition that she would stay at home, amid the coronavirus outbreak. In March, the Bangladesh government extended the suspension of the sentence for a second time by six months.
     Zia has served thrice as the premier of Bangladesh since 1991. Her party suffered a miserable defeat in the 2018 elections bagging only six seats in the 300-seat parliament.
     Her conviction on "moral turpitude" charges de-barred her from contesting the polls. PTI AR IND

(This story has not been edited by THE WEEK and is auto-generated from PTI)