DHAKA (Reuters) - A Bangladesh court on Thursday handed a seven-year jail term to the son of main opposition leader Khaleda Zia in a case of money laundering, scrapping an acquittal by a lower court, lawyers said.
Tarique Rahman, 51, the political heir apparent to the former prime minister, was also fined 200 million taka ($2.5 million), said Khurshid Alam Khan, a lawyer for the Anti-Corruption Commission, which had appealed against the previous judgment.
“The verdict once again endorsed that no one is above the law,” Khan told reporters.
In 2013, a Dhaka court had acquitted Rahman of charges that he and a close friend, Giasuddin Al Mamun, siphoned off 204 million taka ($2.6 million) to Singapore. On Thursday, the court upheld a seven-year jail term for Mamun.
Zainul Abedin, a lawyer for Rahman, who lives in exile in London, told reporters the defense had not yet decided if it would appeal against the decision.
However, Rahman cannot appeal against his conviction unless he surrenders before the court, Law Minister Anisul Huq told reporters after the verdict, vowing to seek the assistance of British authorities, or international police agency Interpol, if required.
Bangladesh does not have an extradition treaty with Britain.
Khaleda’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party rejected the decision on Rahman, calling it “an attempt to keep him away from politics”.
Bangladeshi politics has been mired for years in rivalry between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda.
Both women are related to former national leaders, and have alternated as prime minister for most of the past two decades.
While the women feud, their Muslim-majority country of 160 million has faced a series of militant attacks, the most serious on July 1, when gunmen stormed a cafe in the capital, Dhaka, and killed 20 hostages, most of them foreigners.
Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Clarence Fernandez