April 3, 2016 / 10:05 AM / 3 years ago

Bangladesh former PM to seek bail over firebombing attack

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia waves to activists as she arrives for a rally in Dhaka in this file picture taken January 20, 2014. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj/Files

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh’s former Prime Minister and main opposition leader Khaleda Zia is expected to appear in court and seek bail after she was issued with an arrest warrant over a deadly firebombing attack, her lawyer said on Sunday.

A court in Dhaka issued arrest warrants on Wednesday for Zia, 70, and 27 leaders and activists of her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in connection with a petrol bomb attack on a bus in January last year during a deadly anti-government campaign.

“Most likely, Madam will appear before the court on April 5 and will seek bail,” Khaleda’s lawyer Sanaullah Miah told reporters.

The BNP called for a countrywide protest on Monday against the arrest warrant, saying it was politically motivated.

More than 120 people were killed and hundreds injured early last year in political violence during transport blockades and strikes aimed at toppling the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Bangladeshi politics has been mired for years in rivalry between Hasina and Khaleda. Both women are related to former national leaders, and they have alternated as prime minister for most of the past two decades.

Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority nation of 160 million, has also seen a surge in Islamist violence in which liberal activists, members of minority Muslim sects and other religious groups have been targeted.

Prime Minister Hasina has blamed the rising tide of violence on the opposition BNP and its key ally, Jamaat-e-Islami, many of whose leaders are being prosecuted for war crimes during the 1971 war of independence. The opposition denies any involvement.

Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Richard Pullin

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