Bangladesh court jails 56 border guards for 2009 mutiny

By Farid Hossain, AP
Monday, April 19, 2010

Bangladesh sentences border guards for 2009 mutiny

DHAKA, Bangladesh — A court in southwestern Bangladesh sentenced 56 border guards Monday to prison terms of up to seven years for their role in last year’s mutiny over pay disputes and other grievances that sparked violence that killed 74 people.

The sentencing followed similar verdicts Sunday on 57 defendants in eastern Bangladesh, and verdicts earlier this month on 79 defendants in northern Bangladesh. Only mutiny charges have been dealt with so far, and those accused of crimes such as murder and arson in the uprising will be tried separately.

The guards from the Bangladesh Rifles — the country’s border security force — said they revolted over alleged discrimination and demands for parity in pay and other perks enjoyed by the army officers who command them.

The two-day revolt in February of 2009 erupted with violence at the forces’ headquarters in the capital, Dhaka, and then spread across the country. Fifty-seven army officers were among those killed. The killings occurred only at the headquarters.

A special court in the southwestern district of Sathkhira sentenced 56 guards to prison terms ranging from four months to seven years. Twenty-four defendants received the maximum, Judge Maj. Gen. Mainul Islam said. An additional 32 received sentences ranging from four months to five years, he said.

Islam said four were acquitted. None of the 56 were accused of slayings.

Islam said the convicted guards found guilty of taking up arms, firing, driving their army commanders out of offices and homes and blocking a road during the Feb. 25-26 uprising.

The mutiny occurred just two months after the country’s powerful military, which has backed 21 coups in the country’s 38-year history, relinquished power to a civilian government under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The military was furious with how Hasina handled the mutiny, which was ended through negotiations, including offers of amnesty. But when dozens of bodies — including those of dozens of commanding officers — were discovered dumped into shallow graves or sewers on the sprawling compound, the government rescinded the amnesty offer for those who led the mutiny.

Monday’s sentences were the fourth set related to the mutiny.

Fifty-seven guards were sentenced to similar jail terms in eastern Feni district on Sunday. Earlier this month 79 border guards were sentenced separately to jail terms ranging from four months to seven years in northern Bangladesh.

The government has so far arrested 2,136 members of the force in connection with the mutiny, and has set up six special courts headed by Islam to hear the cases.

Hasina has said she will ensure justice for the families of the mutiny victims.

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