Bangladesh former prime minister Khaleda Zia jailed

Bangladesh opposition leader and former prime minister Khaleda Zia arrives at the court in Dhaka

Zia often said political vendettas are to blame for the cases against her son during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's incumbent government.

The verdict was read out in a court in Dhaka after police used tear gas to disperse thousands of her supporters.

The court found the former prime minister guilty of embezzling money meant for an orphanage, a charge she had consistently dismissed as politically motivated.

In the same case, her son Tarique Rahman and four others have been sentenced to 10 years in jail.

The verdict could bar 72-year-old Zia from running in the general elections as the country's constitution prohibits a convicted person sentenced to over two years from participating.

Thousands of her supporters poured onto the streets and surrounded Zia's motorcade as they chanted anti-government slogans and moved on by cordoning off the motorcade as it slowly progressed.

Zia faces more than 30 other charges, ranging from corruption to sedition.

Bangladesh law says anyone imprisoned for more than two years can not run for office for the next five years, but Law Minister Anisul Huq said the final decision rests with the courts.

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Khaleda and her party say the charges are part of a plot to keep her and her family out of politics.

Asked whether their party will announce any action programme, he said, "I call upon all the BNP leaders and activists and nationalist forces to register their protests in a peaceful manner maintaining the democratic norms". "She can also seek bail".

TV footage showed police using teargas shells on Thursday to break up street protests, as hundreds of Zia's supporters descended on the streets chanting slogans to support her. "No way we will accept this verdict", BNP Secretary General Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told Agence France-Presse.

"There will be a serious leadership issue in the BNP in the absence of Khaleda".

Tarique Rahman has been staying in London ever since he left the country in 2008 shortly after he was freed from the jail during the military-controlled emergency government.

Hasina, during a public rally at Bangabandhu Udyan in the southwestern coastal city of Barisal, said: "Khaleda Zia looted public property when she was in power. she burnt to death over 500 people and injured over 3,000 when she was in opposition in a demonstration of extreme brutality".

Her party boycotted the 2014 polls over its demands for an election-time non-party government, and became the Opposition outside parliament.

"This verdict proves that nobody is above law", he told BenarNews.

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