Bangladesh sentences 152 soldiers to death for mutiny crimes

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Dhaka sentences 152 soldiers to death
Dhaka, Nov 6: A special court in Bangaladesh on Tuesday sentenced to death 152 soldiers from among hundreds of mutineers in the group.

They are accused of murder and arson at the headquarters of the country's border guards in 2009.
More than 150 others, mostly border guards, were given life sentences.

Most of the 800 soldiers who packed the civilian court had already been jailed over the mutiny, but had not been tried for murder, torture and other charges. The trail was held under tight security.

Some of the soldiers broke down in tears after hearing their sentence, pronounced by Judge Mohammad Akhtaruzzaman, and others shouted at the judge, saying the verdict was unfair.

The 30-hour revolt began over pay and other grievances in 2009. It spread from Dhaka to bases around the country. It left 74 people dead, 57 of them officers.

The army courts had investigated breaches of military law and had jailed nearly 6,000 troops - the maximum sentence they could pass was seven years. The civilian court could try people for much more serious crimes carrying the death penalty.

Some out of a group of 23 civilians were also found guilty of conspiracy charges.

"The slain people were not merely killed," he said. "The dead bodies did not get the respect they deserve according to the law.", said the judge about the mutiny.

The trial process has been severely slammed by rights groups

Those convicted have the right to appeal, a process which could take many months given the number of cases. The prosecution said that it too would appeal in the cases of those who were acquitted.

The mutiny

The mutiny began on 25 February, 2009 at the Bangladeshi Rifles headquarters in the capital.

Senior officers were killed and their bodies dumped in sewers and shallow graves before the mutineers surrendered.

The judge said that the soldiers should have been given better pay and privileges to defuse resentment, adding they could not afford to send their children to military-owned schools, reported BBC news.

Several of those convicted screamed at the judge in rage, with one elderly soldier crying out: "I am innocent. You will face Allah's wrath."

"I don't need a life term. Hang me, hang me," another shouted.

The trial of the mutineers on Tuesday has been one of the biggest in Bangladesh's history.

The trial process has been criticised by a human rights groups which says it was not credible - at least 50 suspects died in custody. A handful have also either escaped from custody or are on the run.

Members of the BDR, since renamed as Border Guards Bangladesh, say they revolted over demands for salaries in line with their army commanders. They also wanted to be deployed on lucrative UN peacekeeping missions, which come with generous benefits.

But the revolt over pay and conditions descended into an orgy of violence against their superiors.
The case exposed deep tensions between the government and the powerful military, who were angered over Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's decision to negotiate with the mutineers instead of allowing the army to attack.

Among those jailed for life are former Bangladesh Nationalist Party lawmaker Nasiruddin Ahmed Pintu and regional Awami League leader Torab Ali, local media reported.

Rights advocates said they could not recall a time when so many defendants were sentenced to the death penalty in one single court proceeding. They were particularly struck by both the severity and the scope of the punishment in a country that has an established legal system and is not in a state of war, said The Sydney Morning Herald.

Bangladesh has been one of the least frequent users of the death penalty in countries that still have capital punishment, according to Amnesty International.

If all the defendants sentenced to death Tuesday are executed, Bangladesh would rocket to third place in Amnesty's annual ranking of death penalty countries, surpassing Iraq, but still below Iran and China.

Oneindia News 

(With agency inputs)

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