Campaigners have stepped up their efforts to allow Khaleda Zia, the former Prime Minister of Bangladesh, to go abroad for urgent treatment.
Zia, the 76-year-old leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the main rival of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has been serving a 10-year jail term for corruption.
Zia is currently under house arrest and was admitted to hospital in November 2021 with critical liver and kidney illnesses.Doctors treating her have advised that she needs expert treatment abroad, in a specialist hospital in Europe or the U.S.
The Bangladesh National Party insist that her trial and conviction in 2018 were politically motivated, and that she is a victim of human rights abuses, claims dismissed by the Bangladeshi government.The Bangladeshi authorities have hit back saying Zia has been offered to serve her sentence at home instead of jail and receive the required treatment within the country.
Law Minister Anisul Huq said the government does not lack compassion for Zia, saying, “We understand the sentiment of her [BNP] party people and we are genuinely thinking of taking a decision about her treatment abroad. But we have to find out whether legal recourse allows such action.”
Current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina earlier this month appeared to reject Zia’s family and her party’s pleas, saying, “I have done whatever I can for Khaleda Zia. Now the law will decide the next course of action.”
She is reluctant to ask for a pardon as that would reportedly first mean her having to admit to the corruption charges she was convicted on.
In a bid to further raise awareness of her plight, the Queen, who is also head of the Commonwealth which includes Bangladesh, has been asked to intervene.
Former MEP, Lord Wajid Khan, has backed calls for her to be released so that she can get medical attention in Europe.He said, “This case highlights what is going wrong in the country. This is not just about politics but about human rights.”
Zia was PM three times in the country and left office in 2006 and has been denied adequate medical treatment. Her supporters say she may only have days to live unless she is allowed out of the country to get treatment in another country.