Former Bangladesh Prime Minister Zia avoids arrest in corruption cases as court grants bail



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DHAKA, Bangladesh — Former Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia avoided arrest on corruption charges Sunday after a court granted her bail.

Judge Abu Ahmed Jamadder approved Zia's request for bail when she surrendered to court in the capital, Dhaka.

Zia left her office for the first since Jan. 5, when authorities had initially barred her from leaving to attend an anti-government rally calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, her archrival. Authorities later said she was free to move to her nearby residence, but Zia refused, vowing to continue with anti-government protests that have turned violent, leaving nearly 115 people dead since the beginning of the year.

Zia's lawyers have rejected allegations that she illegally collected more than $1 million in donations for a charity during her last premiership in 2001-2006, and say the charges are politically motivated, which authorities deny.

The trial began early last year.

The court had issued an arrest warrant for Zia in February after she failed to appear to answer the charges against her. Prosecutors on Sunday did not oppose Zia's bail request.

Zia currently leads a 20-party opposition alliance that has been enforcing a nonstop transportation blockade across the South Asian country since early January to demand that Hasina resign and a new election be called.

The blockade began after a year of relative calm following a January 2014 election that was boycotted by Zia's party. The boycott allowed Hasina to come to power with an overwhelming majority, and she says there is no need for another election before 2019, when her five-year term ends.

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