The government has decided to release BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia from jail – suspending her prison term for six months.
The law ministry, in accordance with the Code of Criminal Procedure, has sent a recommendation to the home ministry in this regard.
Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anisul Huq disclosed the information at an emergency press briefing at his Gulshan residence in the capital on Tuesday afternoon.
He said the decision to suspend Khaleda's prison term was made considering her age and humanitarian grounds.
Khaleda can receive home treatment during this period but cannot go abroad, said Anisul.
"In the wake of the present coronavirus situation, asking someone to travel abroad is the same as telling that person to commit suicide," the minister remarked.
He said the decision to release Khaleda was made as per the executive order based on an order of the prime minister.
Anisul said Khaleda's brother Shamim Iskandar, sister Selima Islam and brother-in-law Rafiqul Islam submitted a petition to him via the home ministry, seeking her release in accordance with the executive order.
They sought her release for better treatment in London, said the minister.
"They then met the prime minister and raised the issue. Based on the prime minister's order, we decided to suspend her jail term and release her for home treatment in accordance with Article 401 of the Code of Criminal Procedure," Anisul explained.
The minister said Khaleda's release order would take effect when the home ministry would release her.
When asked how Khaleda would receive treatment if she fell sick at home, he said, "In future, we will understand this based on the situation."
He also said Khaleda was already being treated at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University where the country's highest quality treatment could be received.
How Khaleda ended up in prison
In February 2018, Khaleda was sentenced to five years in prison in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case.
The jail term was extended by another five years when an appeal was lodged with the High Court.
In November that year, she filed a petition with the Appellate Division seeking acquittal.
Her lawyers, however, are yet to present the petition to the court.
The BNP chief remains behind bars since the day she was sentenced.
Moreover, in October 2018, a special court sentenced her to a seven-year rigorous imprisonment in the Zia Charitable Trust case.
She was also fined Tk10 lakh, and another six-month jail term in case of defaulting on the fine.
The three other convicts of the case received the same punishment.
A month later, an appeal was filed with the High Court.
The court in April last year accepted the appeal for hearing. It suspended the fine and stayed the confiscation of her properties.
Also, the court asked officials concerned to submit case documents within two months. The case documents were sent to the court on June 20.
In July, the High Court dismissed Khaleda's bail petition.
She then submitted a bail petition to the Appellate Division, but the court dismissed it after hearing in December.
The Appellate Division at the time said Khaleda could be provided better treatment if she agreed.
The BNP chairperson again submitted a bail petition to the High Court, which the court rejected in February.
The court said Khaleda had to be provided treatment fast if she agreed and her medical board could include new physicians in the team if it wanted to do so.
Khaleda's family members had repeatedly been calling on the authorities to release her for treatment while her bail petition remained sub judice.
The Nationalist Lawyers' Forum also called on the government to release her under Article 401 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Amnesty International hailed the decision of the interim release of Khaleda Zia and hoped she would be given unrestricted access to healthcare.
"We welcome the Bangladeshi authorities' decision to conditionally release the opposition leader Begum Khaleda Zia from jail on humanitarian grounds. As she is suffering from a life-threatening illness, she must be given unrestricted access to the healthcare she needs," reads a statement sent by Sultan Mohammed Zakaria, South Asia Researcher, of Amnesty International