Bangladeshi police have clashed with thousands of protesters, as opposition leader Khaleda Zia was jailed for five years for corruption,agencies reports. Ms Zia, a former prime minister, denies misusing international funds donated to a charitable children’s trust.
The jail sentence may mean the 72-year-old is barred from parliamentary polls due later this year. The case is one of dozens pending against Ms Zia, a long-time rival of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Ms Zia has described the charges against her as politically motivated. As she went into court, she told weeping relatives: “I will be back. Do not worry and be strong”.
The verdict was read out in a court in Dhaka after police used tear gas to disperse thousands of her supporters. Several police officers were injured in the violence, reports said.
Ms Zia was led away to jail minutes after the verdict, bdnews24 reported. Her son Tarique Rahman was given 10 years in jail in absentia as he is in London. The same jail term was handed down to four of her aides.
The trial against Ms Zia centred around $252,000 (£182,000) intended for an orphanage trust set up when she was prime minister. She was found guilty of embezzling the funds.
The charges against her had already led to her boycotting elections in 2014, which triggered widespread protests at the time.
For Thursday’s verdict there was heightened security across the capital and other cities. Many shops and schools were shut, reports said.
According to Ms Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), hundreds of its supporters were arrested in the run-up to the verdict.