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Bangladesh opposition chief asks top court to halt embezzlement trial

DHAKA -- Bangladesh opposition leader Khaleda Zia was set on Sunday to learn whether she would stand trial on charges of embezzling more than US$650,000, in a case that could see her jailed for life.

The High Court in Dhaka was expected to rule on the two-time former premier's last-minute bid to halt the trial scheduled for Monday, after she and her associates were indicted last month on corruption charges.

Zia's lawyers have called the charges politically motivated β€” aimed at keeping her out of politics and destroying her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which has vowed to topple the government of arch rival Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The lawyers argue Zia has been charged unlawfully and are seeking a court order to stop the trial, which was set to start on Monday in a special anti-corruption court in Dhaka.

β€œThe charges framed against her were not done in accordance with the law,” her lawyer Moudud Ahmed, a former law minister, told AFP.

Prosecutors say Zia and three of her co-accused siphoned off 31.5 million taka (about US$400,000) from a charitable trust named after her late husband Ziaur Rahman, a former president who was assassinated in 1981.

She is also accused of leading a group of five people, including her eldest son Tarique Rahman, who now is in London, in embezzling 21.5 million taka (US$277,000) β€” funds which were meant to go to an orphanage set up in memory of her late husband.

The charges date back to Zia's last term as prime minister from 2001 to 2006 and can carry a life sentence, prosecutors have said.

Opposition Threatens Protests

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