A British lawyer representing jailed Bangladeshi opposition leader Khaleda Zia said Thursday he was flying to India to hold a press conference about his client when he learned he was refused entry despite having a visa.
Lord Alexander Carlile, an international lawyer and former MP, released the text of a statement he planned to deliver, arguing that the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been unfair to Zia, leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
“I am outraged by the political interference in Begum Khaleda Zia’s case on political grounds by two governments and I expect a full explanation from the Indian government. I have the visa they granted me a few days ago,” he said after being denied entry to India on Wednesday.
An Indian official challenged Carlile’s claim, saying the Briton had arrived at the airport in New Delhi without having obtained the appropriate Indian visa.
“His intended activity in India was incompatible with the purpose of his visit as mentioned in his visa application. It was therefore decided to deny him entry into India upon arrival,” Raveesh Kumar, spokesman for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement posted on its website.
The lawyer boarded a flight returning to London after being denied entry at Delhi’s international airport, according to Agence France-Presse.
Meanwhile, a Bangladesh analyst blamed the BNP for Carlile being blocked from entering India.
“Look, Lord Carlile did not decide to hold a press conference on Khaleda Zia’s case in Delhi – it was the decision of the BNP,” said Shantanu Majumder, a political science instructor at Dhaka University. “The BNP sent him to Delhi to judge whether India had any political support for them. This is because the BNP has been trying to improve its relations with India.”
“But India has passed on a message to the BNP that they are not in good standing by denying entry for Lord Carlile.”
Zia, 72, was sentenced in February to five years in prison after being convicted of embezzling more than 21 million taka (U.S. $252,000) from the Zia Orphanage Trust, which she headed. Following her sentencing, the former three-time prime minister was whisked away to a special jail in the capital Dhaka, where she has since been held in isolation.
Her supporters have said her health has deteriorated and sought to have her taken to a private hospital for treatment. The government, meanwhile, said she refused treatment from two of the best hospitals in Bangladesh – Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) Hospital and the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) – which are both public.
Carlile planned to say there is no admissible evidence against Zia in the trust case.
“I can only conclude that the government has itself behaved dishonestly, with a clear ulterior motive – to keep my client, her son Tarique Rahman, and their party the BNP out of effective Bangladesh politics and thereby out of the forthcoming election,” the statement said. “This is an affront to democracy.
Rahman, who lives in exile in London, was sentenced along with four others to 10 years in prison.
Carlile said his role as Zia’s attorney was to examine evidence and judgments against her and to advise and comment as to whether they fall within international and common law norms applicable in Bangladesh.
“Judgment and imprisonment are founded upon assertions that amount to guilt by association – because she knows someone or is close to them, she is held liable for their alleged dishonesty. This is an outrage against the normal burden and standard of proof,” the statement said.
Kamran Reza Chowdhury in Dhaka contributed to this report.