Dhaka: Bangladesh's high court on Wednesday ordered opposition chief Khaleda Zia to stand trial in a graft case dating back to 2007, heaping further pressure on the beleaguered former premier.
The court rejected a petition by Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader Zia to quash the case, which was filed by a military-backed government, and ordered her to surrender to a trial court within two months.
Zia and 12 others stand accused of costing the state USD 125 million by corruptly awarding contracts to an international firm to handle containers in state-owned depots.
Zia had been trying to get the case thrown out on the grounds that it stemmed from a period of emergency rule and was therefore no longer valid.
"The court rejected two separate petitions by Zia challenging the legality of the case," prosecutor Khurshid Alam Khan told AFP.
"The court asked her (Zia) to surrender before the trial court within two months after she receives the order," he added.
The leader of the country's largest Islamist party Matiur Rahman Nizami, who is currently on death row after being convicted of war crimes dating back to the 1971 independence conflict, is among Zia's co-accused.
Zia, a two-times former prime minister, has argued that the case is politically motivated and aimed at keeping her out of politics at a time when she is trying to force a fresh general election under a caretaker government.
Were she to be convicted, she would almost certainly receive a lengthy prison sentence which would likely end the political career of the 69-year-old.
Zia is already facing four other graft cases and is also being prosecuted for her role in a series of anti-government marches at the start of the year which called for her arch rival Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to quit.
In recent weeks she has renewed her demand for a new general election under a neutral government, saying Hasina does not have popular mandate to rule following the election last year which was boycotted by the opposition.