Bangladesh court issues arrest warrant for ex-PM Khaleda Zia


DHAKA — A court in eastern Bangladesh issued an arrest warrant on Tuesday for former Prime Minister and opposition leader Khaleda Zia in connection with bomb attacks on a bus during an anti-government agitation in 2015 that killed eight persons, a police official said.

Magistrate Joynab Begum issued orders in a packed courtroom in Comilla district against Zia and 48 other opposition activists in the case after a police official pressed charges against them.

The official says authorities found Zia and the others responsible for the attack in 2015.

It is unlikely that Zia would be arrested because she often obtains legal protection from the High Court against arrest or harassment.

There was no immediate reaction from Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

A prosecution lawyer said after Tuesday’s order was issued that it would ask the court to indict the defendants.

Zia faces numerous such cases involving violence. Her party says they are politically motivated, but authorities have rejected the claims.

The cases against Zia are crucial because if she is found guilty in any of them, she would be ineligible to contest a national election scheduled for later this year.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), led by 72-year-old Zia, had boycotted the 2014 general elections which were held under the Awami League government. The BNP had emerged as the main opposition party outside parliament.

The BNP, along with 20 alliance partners, had given a call for a nationwide transport blockade in 2015 in protest against the first anniversary of the polls.

The former prime minister is also facing a number of graft cases and a sedition charge for her “slanderous” remarks two years ago when she “expressed doubts” about the casualty figures of 1971 Liberation War in which officially three million people were killed, during the nine-month long war against Pakistan.

Zia also faces similar charges in different courts for spearheading a protracted violent campaign three years ago in which over 125 people lost their lives, mostly in arson. — Agencies