(BNP Communication) —  Bangladesh Nationalist Party-BNP chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia’s counsel told the Dhaka Special Judge’s Court-5 on Tuesday, Dec 26, that none of the prosecution witnesses in their testimonies had claimed that Khaleda had abused her power as the prime minister or embezzled any fund of Shaheed Ziaur Rahman Orphanage Trust, reports the English-language daily The New Age.

‘None of the 32 prosecution witnesses have said [in their testimonies] that Begum Zia abused her official capacity either,’ said the defence counsel Abdur Rezzaque Khan during closing argument for the third day in the case.

Being elected prime minister, Khaleda had no executive power until the 12th amendment took place on September 18, 1991 and so there was no question of abusing power from June 9, 1991 and onward by initiating orphanage fund.

The court adjourned the proceeding for the day with allowing bail to former prime minister until today for rest of the arguments.

Police, both in uniform and plainclothes, were deployed inside the packed courtroom of special judge Akhtaruzzaman, set up at Bakhshibazar in Dhaka, while several hundred others with riot gears, water cannon, prison and armed personnel vehicles were deployed around the court boundary, restricting traffic from 10:00am to 3:30pm.

During the argument, Rezzaque Khan alleged that the investigation into the case was half-hearted and partial, and was launched during the period of ‘army-backed interim regime’.

The Anti-Corruption Commission on July 3, 2008, filed the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case with Ramna police station accusing Begum Zia, her eldest son Tarique Rahman, former lawmaker Quazi Salimul Haq Kamal, businessman Sharfuddin Ahmed, former bureaucrat Kamal Uddin Siddiqui and BNP founder Ziaur Rahman’s nephew Mominur Rahman of embezzlement of over Tk 21 million brought from abroad for the orphans.

Citing the testimonies, Abdur Rezzaque Khan argued that the investigators did not produce any documents from Bangladesh Bank on how the fund was sent from Kuwait to Bangladesh nearly three decades ago.

Her lawyer also argued that none of the prosecution witnesses testified that Khaleda had spent any of the money from the fund.

The fund was brought in by the then foreign minister retired Lieutenant Colonel Abu Saleh Mohammad Mustafizur Rahman of Bagerhat who served from March 1991 to March 1996.

The ACC interrogators had interviewed Khaleda and her son Tarique during the military-backed caretaker government, but their statements were not delivered to the defence counsels, said the lead counsel flanked by top pro-BNP lawyers, including Muhammad Jamiruddin Sircar, Moudud Ahmed, Khandaker Mahbub Alam, AJ Mohammad Ali, Mir Mohammad Nasiruddin and Joynal Abedin, among others.

On the day, Rezzaque detailed contradictory statements of the first inquiry officer Nur Ahmed, who found no evidence against Khaleda.

The lead defence counsellor said the then senior officials of Prime Minister’s Office Hafiz Uddin Ahmed and Badiuzzaman had joined ACC later, but none of them testified over the fund and its misappropriation rather an official from Fatikchhary was called to solve audit dispute after three decades.

Citing the testimony of another prosecution witness Towhidur Rahman, Rezzaque Khan said Towhidur had also admitted that no original document of the Orphanage Trust was found. The counsel said none had disclosed from where they had received the complaints.

The anti-graft body also filed Zia Charitable Trust case with Tejgaon police station on August 8, 2011 against Khaleda, Tarique, former Dhaka mayor Sadek Hossain’s personal secretary Monirul Islam Khan, Khaleda’s former political secretary Haris Chowdhury and former BIWTA director Ziaul Islam Munna on charge of embezzling Tk 31.5 million from the trust.