A former Bangladesh chief justice Surendra Kumar Sinha, has been handed 11 years jail sentence in absentia for corruption in a case that opposition groups and supporters believed was politically motivated.
Kumar Sinha 70, headed the Supreme Court when it ruled in 2017 that parliament could not sack judges, a move widely greeted by lawyers as protecting judicial independence.
Sinha left Bangladesh in late 2017, alleging he had been forced to step aside following the landmark ruling. He lives in North America where he has reportedly sought asylum.
Campaigners have said his departure was a massive blow to the credibility of the country’s judiciary, and accused the government of going after Sinha.
“It was very obvious that the government was angry with him and … was determined to just kill his reputation,” Asif Nazrul, a Law Professor at Dhaka University, told the AFP news agency.
A court in the capital Dhaka found Sinha guilty of laundering approximately $471,000 in connivance with the officials of a private bank.
According to report, ten more people were indicted in the case, eight of whom have been convicted and handed down varying punishments.
Judge Shaikh Nazmul Alam of Special Judge’s Court in Dhaka delivered Tuesday’s verdict, ordering Sinha to serve seven years in jail for laundering money and four years for breach of trust, prosecutor Khurshid Alam Khan said.
Sinha was the first Hindu chief justice in the officially secular Muslim-majority nation of 169 million.