Bangladesh ex-PM sentenced to 5 years in jail

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Reiterating that the country sees development when Awami League comes to power, Sheikh Hasina urged people to vote for the Awami League and its alliance in the national election to be held in December next to maintain the pace of development in the country.

Zia was taken to a Dhaka prison under heavy security.

Zia's lawyer Khandkar Mahbub Hossain said the ruling was "political vengeance" and would be overturned by a higher court.

"This is unbelievable", he said. A similar jail term was handed down to four of her aides.

Zia was convicted of embezzling $253,000 in donations meant for an orphanage, established in her late husband Ziaur Rahman's memory when she was the prime minister from 2001-2006, a charge she had consistently dismissed as politically motivated. All can appeal their convictions.

According to the reports, Judge Md Akhtaruzzaman of the Special Court-5 sentenced the two-time former Prime Minister to the five-year imprisonment. Ahead of the verdict, hundreds of its supporters have been also arrested. She was also escorted inside the court by the police forces.

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Zia faces more than 30 other charges, ranging from corruption to sedition.

Zia and her son were detained by an army-backed government in 2007 and spent a year and a half in detention pending trials for alleged corruption. He was tried in absentia, along with two other people.

Zia, 72, and Hasina, 70, are known as the "Battling Begums" for their bitter rivalry that has poisoned Bangladeshi politics for almost three decades.

Both women emerged from political dynasties. Hasina is the daughter of Mujibur Rahman, the country's first president who was assassinated in 1975.

Hasina was referring to the protracted blockade enforced by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its crucial ally jamaat-e-islami coinciding with the 2014 elections demanding polls under a neutral government.

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