The Associated Press DHAKA (AP) — Several hundred opposition supporters staged a protest in Bangladesh’s capital on Thursday demanding the release of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, who is serving a five-year prison sentence in a corruption case.
The protesters accused police of obstructing their sit-in, and a brief clash occurred when the authorities attempted to arrest a student opposition leader. No injuries were reported in the one-hour demonstration in downtown Dhaka.
Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, secretary general of Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party, said they would demonstrate in Dhaka and in small towns across the country on Saturday to protest the police action.
He said police have been interfering with a series of opposition protests since last month’s jailing of Zia. Authorities have denied the allegation and said no arrests have been made without specific charges.
Also on Thursday, defense lawyers met 72-year-old Zia in jail and discussed legal issues involving her bail request.
Zainul Abedin, one of the lawyers, told reporters after meeting Zia that they were hopeful the former prime minister would be released on bail. Zia’s lawyers have said the case is politically motivated.
Abedin said the High Court where Zia has appealed her conviction will rule on Sunday whether she will be released. The court can grant bail while an appeal is pending.
Zia’s party has been trying to build up an opposition movement since her jailing but so far has failed to gain momentum. Violent street protests are common in Bangladesh during political upheavals. The opposition says authorities are arresting its supporters and harassing many to apply pressure ahead of December national elections.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, meanwhile, said people should vote for her party in the election to continue the country’s development and reject corruption. Critics acknowledge that development has been taking place but say corruption remains a major concern.
A court convicted Zia on Feb. 8 on charges of misusing her power and embezzling about $250,000. The conviction means that Zia, the archrival of Hasina, can be barred from running in the elections.