The High Court (HC) on Sunday declared BNP's acting chairman Tarique Rahman and his wife Zubaida Rahman "fugitives" in a 2007 graft case filed by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) on allegations of misappropriating Tk4.8 crore.
The court also rejected the couple's writ petitions challenging the corruption case against them for acquiring wealth beyond their known sources of income and concealing wealth in their affidavits.
The HC bench of Justice Md Nazrul Islam Talukder and Justice Kazi Md Ejarul Haque Akondo also withdrew the stay order on the case and directed the trial court concerned to complete trial proceedings as early as possible.
The court also asked Dhaka's chief metropolitan magistrate to send the record of the case to the Metropolitan Sessions Judge's Court in the capital in 10 days.
ACC lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan told the media that as both Tarique and Zubaida have remained fugitives, no lawyers can fight on their behalf.
The ACC filed the corruption case against Tarique and Zubaida with Kafrul police station on 26 September 2007.
Tarique and his wife Zubaida had submitted three separate writ petitions to the HC some 15 years ago, challenging the case filed by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
The HC had issued a rule in this regard at that time. Tariq and Zubaida submitted another three writ petitions against the rule, asking for a hearing.
The HC finally took cognizance of these petitions on 29 May this year. On that day, the ACC lawyer asked the court whether the lawyer of Tarique and Zubaida would be able to plead for time.
On 5 June, the first hearing took place, discussing if Tarique and Zubaida could be declared fugitives and if they could appoint lawyers to stand for them.
The same issues were discussed during the second hearing on 12 June and the third hearing yesterday.
Lawyers AJ Mohammad Ali, Joynul Abedin, and Kaysar Kamal conducted the hearing. Lawyer Khurshid Alam stood for the ACC, while Attorney General AM Amin Uddin stood for the state.
During the hearing, Khurshid Alam said Tarique Rahman had been convicted in three cases. An arrest warrant had also been issued against him, he said, adding these conditions were enough to declare Tarique a fugitive.
Besides, the Appellate Division on 13 April said in a verdict that Tarique's wife Zubaida was a fugitive.
"As both Tarique and Zubaida have been declared fugitives by courts, they cannot hire lawyers to stand for them," said Khurshid.
Attorney General AKM Amin Uddin echoed Khurshid.
But, Tarique and Zubaida's lawyer AJ Mohammad Ali said before the court that the corruption case against his clients was still in its infancy.
"Complaints brought against them haven't been recognised by the court yet. As a result, the time hasn't come for Tarique and Zubaida to surrender before the court."
He added that Tarique was not a fugitive when he had filed the writ petitions. "Tarique has received bail in the corruption case, which has been upheld by the Appellate Division too. That's why Tarique Rahman can't be declared a fugitive," he said.