Bangladesh former prime minister Khaleda Zia jailed

Bangladeshi police have clashed with thousands of protestors after the Opposition leader was jailed 

Former Bangladeshi Prime Minister Khaleda Zia
Former Bangladeshi Prime Minister Khaleda Zia

Bangladeshi police have clashed with thousands of protesters after opposition leader Khaleda Zia was jailed.

A Bangladesh court sentenced former the Prime Minister on Thursday to five years in prison on corruption charges. The conviction means that Zia, the archrival of the current prime minister, could be barred from running in December national elections.

Zia was taken to a Dhaka prison under heavy security. In a country riven by dynastic politics, security forces fearing clashes had increased ahead of the verdict, along with supporters of both major political parties.

Zia has denied any misuse of international funds donated to a charitable children's trust.

As she went into court, she told relatives: "I will be back. Do not worry and be strong", according to the Daily Star.

Defense lawyer Mahbubuddin Khokan also said Zia ordered him to appeal. "This is unbelievable," he said. "I am confident she will come out of jail."

Zia was convicted of embezzling some $250,000 in donations meant for an orphanage trust established when she first became prime minister in 1991. Judge Mohammed Akhtaruzzaman, who announced the verdict in a courtroom in Dhaka's Old City, also sentenced Zia's son Tarique Rahman and four others to 10 years in prison for involvement in the case. All can appeal their convictions.

The verdict was read out in a court in Dhaka after police used tear gas to disperse thousands of her supporters.

For Thursday's verdict there was heightened security across the capital and other cities. Many shops and schools were shut, reports said.

According to Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), hundreds of its supporters were arrested in the run-up to the verdict.

Several police officers were injured in the violence, reports said.

Khaleda Zia became Bangladesh's first female head of government in 1991 after leading the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to victory in the country's first democratic election in 20 years

She later returned to the post of prime minister in 2001, stepping down in October 2006 ahead of a general election.