The BNP has engaged a British lawyer to deal with party chairperson Khaleda Zia’s cases for, what the party claims, enriching the local team of her counsels alongside highlighting the matter in the global arena. In the latest development, the BNP announced that it has appointed British lawyer Lord Carlile to assist the chairperson’s team of lawyers to ensure her release on bail and fight the legal battle strongly during the appeal hearing in the Zia Orphanage Trust Graft case. The former premier has been sentenced to five years' imprisonment by a lower court.
In a press briefing at the party office in the capital yesterday, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said: “We have appointed Lord Carlile. He will work as a member on Khaleda Zia's lawyers' panel and help us to fight her cases. The British lawyer will also give his opinion as to whether the international human rights law is being violated during the case proceedings.”
Replying to a question, Fakhrul said hiring a foreign lawyer does not mean Bangladeshi lawyers are incapable.
When asked if the local lawyers were not enough to carry out the legal battles, Fakhrul said: “Not necessarily. The move aims to enrich the team and highlight the matter in the global arena.”
On another query, the BNP stalwart said Dr Kamal Hossain, one of the top lawyers of the country, had read the case. “He would advise the legal team once the hearing starts in the main case.”
In a statement, Lord Carlile said he is still reading his way into the case. He, however, mentioned that he is already concerned about the process and its fairness.
“I am pleased to be joining the team in this important case. One cannot say too often that criminal trials have no integrity unless the evidence is presented fairly and before a totally impartial tribunal,” he said in the media announcement.
When contacted, Bangladesh Bar Council secretary Md Rafiqul Islam said the British lawyer will have to take permission from the court or the Bangladesh Bar Council if he wants to appear before the court on behalf of Khaleda Zia.
Without taking permission, the British lawyer cannot take part in the appeal hearing. But he can assist the BNP lawyers outside the court, he added.
Lord Carlile is a renowned lawyer in London and a member of the British Queen’s Council and the House of Lords. He will advise Khaleda’s lawyers on compliance of the trial process with international human rights standards and on general criminal law issues, said the media announcement.
He is the chairman of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative in London and was a part-time judge for 28 years, including in the High Court of Justice.
Lord Carlile, also a former MP, was the UK’s Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation for over nine years and was decorated by the Queen in 2012 for services to national security.
Lord Carlile, said to be a lobbyist of then Jamaat leader Mir Quasem Ali, who was executed on September 3, 2016 on war crime charges, in a letter described the case before the International Crimes Tribunal court against him as “full of inconsistencies, bias, political interference, and denial of any established national or international fair trail standard”.
Awami League joint general secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif said he sees no legal bar to take legal assistance from a foreign lawyer in favour of a convict.
“She (Khaleda) is a convicted prisoner. She can take legal assistance for her bail. I am not aware whether there is any bar to take legal assistance from abroad,” he said.
Khaleda’s lawyer, Advocate Sanaullah Miah, also confirmed that the British lawyer will assist them to deal with the chairperson’s graft cases. The United Kingdom (UK) unit of the BNP made the arrangement in this regard, he said.
A special judge’s court sentenced Khaleda to five years’ imprisonment in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case and sent her to the old Central Jail at Nazimuddin Road on February 8.
On Monday, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court stayed until May 8 the High Court order that had granted bail to the BNP chairperson.