BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia yesterday claimed that the Zia Charitable Trust graft case was on trial to get her out of politics as the ruling quarter has made a blueprint to disqualify her in the upcoming election.
“Activities of the government high-ups, their initiatives and statements in this regard have made it clear. That's why people have serious doubt over getting justice in the cases filed against me,” Khaleda told the Special Judge Court-5 in her defence statement.
Anti-Corruption Commission filed the case in August 2011 with the Tejgaon Police Station accusing four people, including the BNP chief, 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.
Judge Md Akhtaruzzaman of the special court at the city's Bakshibazar adjourned yesterday's proceedings until this morning. Fourteen other graft cases filed against the former premier have also recently been transferred to the same court.
The judge on January 25 fixed February 8 for delivery of verdict in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case filed against Khaleda and her son Tarique Rahman after the defence finished their closing arguments and rebuttal.
In her written statement, Khaleda had then alleged that the verdict would be delivered as per the will of the ruling quarter.
“But I want to believe that you [Judge] will deliver judgment in line with the law with boldness and honesty, keeping yourself free from the government's influence,” she added.
On the Zia Charitable Trust, she yesterday said it was formed completely under private initiative aimed at serving the people and conducting various welfare activities.
“This organisation never took any kind of monetary assistance from any state or public organisations. Not a single penny was allocated to the trust from any public or government fund. No money was collected for the trust with influence of the prime minister's post or using the prime minister's power.”
She also said the Zia Charitable Trust fund was formed as per the existing trust laws and was registered. There was no violation of law.
Khaleda said it was a common and acceptable practice across the world to operate trust activities with financial assistance of donors.
“The case was filed as it [Zia Charitable Trust Fund] was the initiative of the BNP and my connection with it as the BNP chairperson. The present ruling quarter considers me and the BNP as their rival. Their behaviour and different statements prove that they are determined to harass me and the BNP by any means.”
The BNP chief said it could not be proved clearly that “I have misused power. The case was filed only because of the ruling quarters' will and their instruction.”
“I therefore want to say unequivocally that the allegation of misusing power against me is totally untrue and baseless,” she said, adding, “Rather the Anti-Corruption Commission filed the case against me misusing power.”
The BNP chief said none of the 32 prosecution witnesses could submit any evidence before the court in favour of her alleged misuse of power.
“Once again, I want to inform you [Judge] that I did not operate any activities of Shaheed Ziaur Rahman Charitable Trust as prime minister. Therefore, there is no relation between my premiership and the trust fund.”
Khaleda claimed that the Awami League after assuming power filed “the totally false, baseless and politically motivated case” to harass the opposition.
“There are so many important cases which remain pending year after year. But the case proceedings against me got the speed of a rocket. It seems someone from behind is instructing to complete the case proceedings quickly and deliver verdict against Khaleda Zia. Why such hurry? Will it ensure justice or will it bury justice?”
Khaleda said the people have serious doubts whether justice would be served. “We are also worried.
“During investigation and the case proceedings, the prime minister, many members of the cabinet and leaders of the ruling alliance have issued statements accusing me in the case.
“Some ministers and leaders of the ruling alliance have been repeatedly threatening to minus me from the political arena.”
Khaleda said various cases were also filed against Awami League President Sheikh Hasina in connection with corruption, misuse of power, irregularities, and extortion.
“But she is so lucky that she never had to appear before the court like I had to.
“… all cases against her, including on charge of corruption, irregularities and extortion, were quashed one after another after she assumed power.”
Earlier, Chief Prosecutor Mosharrof Hossain Kajol demanded the highest punishment, seven years' jail, for Khaleda and three other accused during his closing arguments. He claimed that the allegations of misuse of power and misappropriation of money had been proved.