Bangladesh’s High Court on Monday upheld death sentences for 139 people, mostly former paramilitary men from the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), for their involvement in a mutiny in February 2009.
A total of 74 people, including 57 Army officials, were brutally murdered on February 25 and 26 in 2009 at the Pilkhana headquarters of the BDR, later renamed Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB).
The mutineers stole thousands of weapons from the headquarters of the BDR before embarking on the killing spree in the barracks. The home of the BDR chief was also stormed and his wife, guests and staff slaughtered before the building was razed. The remains of those butchered in the carnage were dumped in sewers or shallow graves.
The uprising quickly spread to other military bases, with thousands of soldiers seizing weapons and pledging allegiance to the mutineers in Dhaka before it was quashed by the army.
A three-member bench, led by Justice Md. Shawkat Hossain, pronounced the sentence on Monday.
“It was the most heinous, brutal and barbaric carnage of our history,” Justice Md. Abu Zafor Siddique told the Dhaka courtroom of the two-day massacre in which victims were shot, hacked to death and burned alive by marauding troops.
The sentences can be appealed again in the Supreme Court, which by law has the final say in all capital punishment cases. In 2013, a lower court had sentenced 152 soldiers to death for the grisly killings in a mass trial criticised by the United Nations rights chief as failing to meet basic standards of due process. One of those handed the death penalty died in custody, eight others had sentences commuted to life imprisonment and four were acquitted. The trial court had also jailed 160 others for life and given rigorous imprisonment to 256 people.
An official investigation into the mutiny blamed years of pent-up anger among ordinary soldiers, who felt their appeals for pay rises and better treatment were ignored.
On Monday, the High Court gave a seven-point recommendation list. It said the ‘Operation Dal Bhat’, started by the military-driven caretaker government in 2007, was a wrong decision. It also asked the government not to undertake such programmes in the future.
It also asked Border Guard Bangladesh to maintain professional relations between officers and soldiers as per the BGB Act. The court also asked the authorities concerned to investigate why intelligence agency of BDR (now BGB) had failed to get information on the mutiny beforehand. It also asked the government to pay dues of the BDR officials sacked following the carnage.
Source: The Hindu