Former Bangladeshi prime minister and opposition leader Khaleda Zia was on Monday booked for treason over her alleged “slanderous comments” concerning martyrs of the 1971 liberation war against Pakistan, with a court in Dhaka summoning her to appear before it.
“The case has been filed against her at the chief metropolitan magistrate’s court (Dhaka) on Monday morning along with prayers seeking her arrest,” a court official said.
After a brief hearing, the court summoned her to appear before it in person.
“The court summoned her (Zia)… she has been asked to appear by March 3 to face the sedition charge for her recent slanderous comments over the 1971 liberation war martyrs
number,” another official said.
Speaking at a discussion on December 21 last year, 70-year-old Zia had “expressed doubts” about the casualty figures of the 1971 liberation war.
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“There are controversies over how many were martyred in the Liberation War. There are also many books and documents on the controversies,” she had said.
Zia’s BNP is a crucial ally of fundamentalist Jamaat-e- Islami, which was opposed to Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan.
The ruling Awami League, 1971 veterans and members of the martyred families had sharply reacted to Zia’s comments with some of them even calling her as the “agent of Pakistan”.
Today’s development came a day after the Home Ministry gave its clearance to move the sedition case against the ex-premier.
Supreme Court lawyer Mamtaz Uddin Ahmed Mehedi on December 27 had sought Zia be tried for sedition in the court under section 123 (A) of the country’s Penal Code.
The magistrate at that time ordered a police investigation into the allegation and asked the petitioner to obtain government clearance to move the sedition case as required by the law.
The Section 123 (A) suggests one to be “punished with rigorous imprisonment which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine” for “condemnation of the creation of
the State (Bangladesh) and advocacy of abolition of its sovereignty”.
BNP leader and senior lawyer Khandker Mahbub Hossain on sunday claimed that “there is no element of sedition in the (Zia’s) statement”.
According to official figures, about three million people were killed during the nine-month long war against Pakistan.
The latest case could compound Zia’s legal problems as she is aready facing trial in two graft cases.