Bangladeshi community in Belgium turns to H.M. Queen Elizabeth II for help in Khaleda Zia case

It is not every day that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is called on by a Belgian community to intervene in a dispute, but that is precisely what happened in Brussels this week.

The community in question actually comprises Bangladeshi expats living in the country who are campaigning for their former Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia, currently under house arrest following fraud charges, to be permitted by the government to travel abroad for urgently needed medical treatment.

Bangladesh is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations - formerly known as the British Commonwealth - and as such its citizens have the right to petition The Queen, who is the head of the Commonwealth, a role she is known to cherish.

Madam Zia, aged 76, is suffering from a number of medical conditions and is seeking treatment in the UK, United States, or Germany.

She served as the Prime Minister of her country from 1991 to 1996, and again from 2001 to 2006, and has the distinction of being the first woman in the country's history, and only the second in the Muslim majority countries, to head a democratic government as Prime Minister.

Businessmen Saydur Rahman and Babu Mohammed Michel, both members of the Belgian branch of Madam Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party were behind the initiative, and have also called on EU High Representative Josep Borrell.

“She is very, very sick and we do not know how much longer she can live. She cannot access the treatment she needs in the country so must be allowed to leave urgently. It is not acceptable for her to be detained in this way," said Saydur Rahman.

Babu Mohammed Michel said "no less than 12 human rights groups have called for her to be allowed to leave the country for treatment. We are calling for the same thing.”

Former Member of the European Parliament and now a peer in the UK, Lord Wajid Khan, said “This is not about politics but about human rights.”

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