Bangladesh court upholds 139 death sentences for mutiny

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 November, 2017, 6:53pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 November, 2017, 6:55pm

Bangladesh’s High Court has upheld a verdict by a trial court sentencing 139 border guards to death for their actions in a 2009 mutiny in which 74 people, including 57 military commanders, were killed.

The trial court sentenced 152 people to death in 2013, but in response to an appeal, the High Court commuted the sentences for eight of them to life in prison and acquitted four others. Another man died during the 370 days of proceedings before Monday’s High Court verdict. A total of 846 people, mostly border guards, are facing trial.

The border guard mutiny over two days in February, 2009, took place two months after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took office. Hasina returned to power in 2014.

A three-member panel of High Court judges said in issuing its verdict that the border guards were “most brutal” and “cold-blooded” murderers.

The mutiny was an acid test for Hasina’s government at the time, with the influential military unhappy about its decision not to make a counter-assault in fear of more casualties. The border guard headquarters were closely surrounded by homes and businesses in the capital Dhaka.

Hasina had offered an amnesty to quell the revolt, but rescinded the offer when dozens of bodies were found in sewers and mass graves.

The amnesty offer and government handling of the case strained the military’s relationship with Hasina, but she vowed to punish those responsible.

Human rights groups earlier criticised Bangladesh for the mass trial, saying it would not aid justice. New York-based Human Rights Watch said at least 47 suspects have died in custody. It also said the suspects have had limited access to lawyers, and little knowledge of the charges and evidence against them. Bangladeshi authorities have denied the allegations.