Bangladesh jails 611 soldiers for 2009 mutiny
DHAKA - Agence France-Presse
In this photograph taken on March 2, 2009, a Bangladeshi Army officer breaks down in tears as he carries the coffin of a comrade, killed during a mutiny, during a funeral ceremony in Dhaka. AFP Photo
A Bangladesh court jailed 611 border guards for their role in a bloody 2009 military mutiny, bringing the total number of soldiers imprisoned for the unrest to more than 4,000, a prosecutor said.
Scores of 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 the bodies in sewers and shallow graves.
A special military court in Dhaka on Saturday found 611 border guards from the force's 13th battalion guilty of joining the mutiny, state prosecutor Manjur Alam said.
"Of the 621 soldiers charged, 10 were acquitted and 611 were handed out prison terms starting from four months to seven years. At least 55 soldiers were sentenced to maximum seven years in jail," Alam told AFP. The mutiny spread from Dhaka to BDR posts across the country, with thousands of guards taking up arms against their commanding officers in the worst military rebellion in Bangladesh's history.
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, convicting 29 soldiers, being handed down in April 2010.
More than 4,000 BDR soldiers have now been convicted, Alam said, in what prosecutors say is the biggest case in the country's history.
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 611 soldiers convicted on Saturday, 135 soldiers face murder charges and are being tried separately," said Alam.