Trial of the Zia Charitable Trust graft case was halted for around 10 minutes yesterday as the judge left the courtroom amid heated arguments between the defence and the prosecution.
The Special Judge's Court-5, however, resumed the trial and the defence placed their arguments before the proceedings were adjourned until today.
The Anti-Corruption Commission filed the case in August 2011 with Tejgaon police accusing four people including BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia of abusing power to raise funds for the trust from unknown sources.
The three other accused are Harris Chowdhury, Khaleda's political secretary when she was in power between 2001 and 2006, Ziaul Islam Munna, assistant private secretary to Harris, and Monirul Islam Khan, APS of former mayor Sadeque Hossain Khoka.
Of them, Harris is on the run.
On Tuesday, Public Prosecutor Mosharraf Hossain Kajal completed the closing arguments and sought the highest punishment, seven years'imprisonment, for the accused.
Khaleda appeared before the court around 11:30am yesterday.
Aminul Islam, defence counsel for Munna, started his submission pointing to “discrepancies” in the testimonies of Harun-or-Rashid, the complainant and investigation officer of the case.
The prosecution alleged that huge money was collected in the name of the trust but was not used for it. Aminul refuted the allegation saying 42 kathas of land was bought in 2005 for the trust.
The land was purchased for the trust and not in Khaleda's name, said the defence counsel, adding that the trust's activities did not proceed due to violent movement by the Awami League-led opposition after 2005 and later as the caretaker government took over.
The prosecution placed “lame arguments” as the trust owns land and building, Aminul argued.
According to the prosecution, when Khaleda Zia opened a bank account for the trust, she hid that she was the prime minister but used the address of her cantonment residence.
Refuting this argument, Aminul said as Zia Charitable Trust is a private trust, Khaleda should not use her official designation there.
She did not open the account as the prime minister, he said, adding, a person might need to do both official and unofficial acts.
At this stage, Aminul asked if what Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina spoke in Sylhet on Tuesday fell under the duties of a prime minister.
Hasina sought vote for “boat”, the electoral symbol of the ruling AL, on Tuesday in Sylhet to make Bangladesh a developed and prosperous country.
Public Prosecutor Mosharraf Hossain Kajal opposed Aminul's submission, saying the defence irrelevantly brought up the prime minister's issue.
“Is it an argument? Why is he bringing up the prime minister's issue in the arguments?” said Kajal and locked in heated arguments with the defence counsel.
Judge Md Akhtaruzzaman asked the defence counsel to place submission on relevant matters. But several other lawyers joined the defence counsel and the prosecutor and the defence continued their heated exchanges of words, leading the judge to leave the courtroom around 11:55am.
The judge, however, returned after around 10 minutes and said,“How could you [lawyers] do this in presence of a former prime minister?
“Won't you look after her honour? There should be some decency,” the judge said, asking all to maintain the decorum of the court.
At this point Aminul resumed his arguments.
The defence counsel said his client carried out his duty as per the directives of his boss for which he could not be made an accused.
“If you make PS and APS accused for the activities of their bosses, then you have to file numerous cases,” he argued.
The lawyer added Tk 7.8 crore was raised for the trust with the donation of party leaders and Tk 7.77 crore was expended legally, so the charge, brought by the prosecution is “false” and “has no evidence”.
The court proceeding was adjourned until today.