Dhaka, Oct 30 (IANS) Bangladesh's leader of opposition and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia will not be able to contest the upcoming general elections after she was sentenced to a total of 17 years in prison in two separate graft cases, Attorney-General Mahbubey Alam said on Tuesday.
"Since she is now a convict, according to the existing law of our country one cannot participate in elections unless the punishment is changed and she is acquitted," Alam told reporters at his office.
The Bangladesh High Court on Tuesday doubled Khaleda's jail sentence to 10 years from the five-year term that was announced in February in a corruption case involving the embezzlement of $200,000 meant for the Zia Orphanage Trust, bdnews24.com reported.
Khaleda's son Tarique Rahman and four others were sentenced for 10 years at that time.
"The revision that the Anti-Corruption Commission filed for increasing her punishment has been granted and the punishment of Begum Khaleda Zia was increased to 10 years from five years," the Attorney-General said on Tuesday.
Khaleda, the 73-year-old leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), was sentenced to seven years in prison in another graft case on Monday. She was found guilty of using her political clout to raise funds of around 31.5 million taka ($375,000) from unknown sources for the Zia Charitable Trust.
Khaleda, who was Bangladesh's Prime Minister between 1991-1996 and 2001-2006, has been admitted in a hospital since the beginning of October and has repeatedly denied all the charges.
Khaleda and her supporters claim that the cases against her were politically motivated and were orchestrated by the government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Bangladesh is set to hold general elections before a January 5 deadline, although the exact dates have not yet been announced.
The BNP, which does not currently hold any seats in the country's Parliament, boycotted the 2014 general elections after the government, led by Hasina's Awami League party, did away with the system of an interim government, which for decades had supervised elections in the country.
The BNP and the Awami League have taken turns in power in the country since 1991, except for a brief period of military rule between 2006-08.