Dhaka: Bangladesh opposition leader Khaleda Zia on Monday lost her latest attempt to halt trials on graft charges which could see her jailed for life if found guilty, her lawyer said.
The Supreme Court dismissed appeals by the former two-time premier, who claimed charges against her of embezzling $650,000 in two corruption cases were filed illegally, lawyer Rafiqul Islam Mia said.
"In a short ruling the chief justice said the appeals were dismissed," Mia told AFP.
The appeals to the country`s highest court were the latest in a series of attempts to suspend the trials, which both started in September after years of delay.
Mia said his team of lawyers would continue their efforts, branding the charges "fabricated and concocted".
Prosecutors have accused Zia`s lawyers of time-wasting, saying pre-trial hearings alone had been delayed more than 36 times.
Zia, 69, has called the charges politically motivated, aimed at destroying her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which has vowed to topple the government of arch-rival Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Zia and three of her aides are accused of syphoning off 31.5 million taka (about $400,000) from a charitable trust named after her late husband Ziaur Rahman, a former president who was assassinated in 1981.
She is also accused of leading a group of five people, including her eldest son and her heir apparent, in embezzling 21.5 million taka ($277,000) -- funds which were meant to go to an orphanage set up in memory of her late husband.
In recent months, BNP and its allies have staged a series of large rallies across the country, and forecast fresh protests for the winter in an effort to force Hasina to call fresh elections.
Zia was charged just weeks after Hasina was re-elected in a January 5 poll which the centre-right BNP and its 18 opposition allies boycotted and denounced as a farce.
The charges date back to Zia`s last term as premier from 2001 to 2006 and can carry a life sentence, prosecutors have said.
Zia, who first became premier in 1991, has a notoriously poisonous relationship with Hasina -- an enmity which dates back three decades.
The January polls effectively became a one-horse race after the BNP and other opposition parties refused to field candidates over rigging fears.
Nearly 200 people died in political violence surrounding the election, when opposition activists and security forces fought pitched street battles.