Bangladesh jails 665 soldiers for 2009 mutiny
A Bangladesh court on Tuesday jailed 665 border guards for their role in a bloody 2009 military mutiny, bringing the total number of soldiers imprisoned for the unrest to over 5,000, a prosecutor said.
Fifty-seven senior army officers were killed during an uprising that began when soldiers at the Bangladeshi Rifles (BDR) headquarters in the capital Dhaka went on a killing spree, later dumping victims’ bodies in sewers and shallow graves.
A special military court in Dhaka found 665 border guards from the force’s 44th Battalion guilty of “masterminding, joining and leading the mutiny”, state prosecutor Lieutenant Colonel Zakir Hossain said.
“Of the 673 soldiers charged, eight were acquitted and the rest were handed out prison terms starting from four months to seven years. A total of 113 soldiers were sentenced to maximum seven years in jail,” Hossain said.
The mutiny spread from Dhaka to BDR posts across the country, with thousands of guards taking up arms against their commanding officers.
Dozens of special courts – run by the military using a mix of martial and civilian law – were set up to prosecute mutineers, with the first verdict, which saw 29 soldiers convicted, being handed down in April 2010.
In all, 5,203 BDR soldiers have now been convicted, Hossain said, in what prosecutors say is the biggest case in the country’s history.
Those convicted include hundreds of nurses and sportsmen who represented the country internationally.
The courts, headed by military officers, do not allow defendants to have lawyers and there is no right of appeal. Seven years in jail is the maximum penalty they can impose.
The BDR has since changed its name to the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) in an effort to distance itself from the mutiny.
Soldiers accused of more serious offences – including murder – are being tried separately in civilian courts and could face the death penalty if convicted.
Of the 665 soldiers convicted on Tuesday, 129 still face murder charges, said Hossain.