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More than 150 sentenced to death, hundreds jailed at mass Bangladesh mutiny sentencing

A total of 823 soldiers and 23 civilians appear in special court charged with murder, torture and other offences over 2009 mutiny, in which scores of top officers were massacred.
A Bangladesh soldier following the announcement of his death penalty at the special court in Dhaka. Munir Uz Zaman / AFP
A Bangladesh soldier following the announcement of his death penalty at the special court in Dhaka. Munir Uz Zaman / AFP

DHAKA // A Bangladeshi court sentenced more than 150 soldiers to death and jailed hundreds more yesterday, following a mass trial over a 2009 mutiny in which scores of top officers were massacred.

A total of 823 soldiers and 23 civilians appeared in a special court charged with murder, torture and other offences over the mutiny, in which 74 people were shot, hacked to death or burnt alive before their bodies were dumped in sewers or shallow graves.

A judge passed the death penalty on 152 of the soldiers, who looted weapons and led the killing spree partly in anger that their longstanding pleas for better pay and treatment were ignored.

Another 161 soldiers and some civilians were sentenced to life in prison while 262 defendants were jailed for up to 10 years over the uprising that started at the headquarters of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) in Dhaka and spread to other bases.

“The atrocities were so heinous that even the dead bodies were not given their rights,” the judge, Mohammad Akhtaruzzaman, told the packed court in the capital as he read out the long-awaited verdicts.

Executions by hanging are regularly carried out in Bangladesh. Lawyers for the soldiers on death row said they will appeal.

Nearly 6,000 BDR soldiers, a paramilitary corps responsible for patrolling the nation’s borders, have already been convicted by dozens of special courts over the mutiny, whose victims included 54 top officers.

The 823 soldiers were singled out for prosecution in a civilian court for leading the mutiny at BDR headquarters, after earlier being found guilty in military courts.

Twenty-three civilians were also charged with criminal conspiracy. A former opposition MP and a junior official from the ruling party were given life sentences yesterday for assisting the uprising.

Lead prosector Baharul Islam said the case was the largest of its type in the world, with hundreds of witnesses called for the trial that started in January 2011 and finished in October this year.

But rights groups have criticised the hearing, saying it was simply too large to deliver justice.

“Trying hundreds of people en masse in one giant courtroom, where the accused have little or no access to lawyers, is an affront to international legal standards,” Human Rights Watch said last week.

* Agence France-Presse

Published: November 5, 2013 04:00 AM

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