Bangladesh on Sunday stopped ailing key opposition leader and two-time former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia from traveling abroad for life-saving medical treatment, an official and supporters said.
Kayser Kamal, legal head of Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), denounced the government’s decision to ban the wheelchair-bound 78-year-old woman from leaving – due to the terms of her effective house arrest – as an act of “political discrimination ”. revenge”.
Bangladesh is gearing up for general elections scheduled for the end of January, and several Western governments and rights groups have expressed concern about the political environment in a country where the ruling party dominates the legislature and runs it almost like a rubber stamp.
Zia and her bitter rival, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, have dominated politics in the South Asian country of 170 million for more than four decades.
In 2008, Zia was sentenced to 17 years in prison for transplantation, and two years in prison before being released under house arrest. She has dismissed the allegations as politically motivated.
Zia has been hospitalized since early August with advanced liver cirrhosis, breathing difficulties and diabetes, and she suffers from heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and knee problems, her doctor said.
Her family wrote a letter to the government last month pleading for her to be flown abroad for treatment.
But Justice Minister Anisul Huq told reporters on Sunday that they had rejected the plea, saying the executive order for her release from prison banned her from participating in politics and going abroad for medical care.
“The application cannot be reconsidered,” he said.
The existing executive order would have to be rescinded before the government could reconsider a new directive allowing her to go abroad, meaning Zia would first have to return to prison and then apply, Huq said.
BNP legal chief Kamal condemned the decision.
“She was granted parole under a provision, and the same provision can be used to enable her to receive treatment abroad,” he said.
Tens of thousands of BNP supporters protested last week against the government’s actions towards Zia.
The BNP and its allies have staged a series of protests since last year demanding Hasina step down and allow a transitional government to oversee the elections.
Yousuf Ali, a supporter of Zia and a British-trained lawyer practicing in Dhaka and London, said Huq’s order was issued “in support of Hasina’s political vendetta” against Zia, adding that she should legally are allowed to travel for medical care. .
“I don’t see any legal impediment to sending Begum (Khaleda) Zia abroad for her much-needed life-saving treatment,” Ali told AFP, speaking in an honorary tone.
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