Dhaka– A Bangladeshi court has confirmed death sentences of 139 soldiers form a paramilitary border guard for killing their commanders among others during a mutiny nearly eight years ago, officials said.
A three-member panel of judges also upheld life in prison sentence for 146 others, attorney general Mahbubey Alam told a media briefing after the verdict.
They were tried for their involvement in the killings, looting and other criminal offences during the February 25-26, 2009, massacre at their headquarters.
Seventy-four people, including 57 army officers, were killed in the two-day mutiny at Dhaka headquarters of the then Bangladesh Rifles force, which was later renamed as Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB).
A trial court in 2013 had sentenced 152 mutineers to death, one of them dying a natural death subsequently, while it handed down life term to 160. Two hundred sixty-two were given lesser jail terms between three and 10 years. The trial court also acquitted 271 from the charges.
The panel of judges in the High Court acquitted 12 soldiers who were sentenced to life in prison by the trial court. Two other accused were died.
But they also sentenced 31 more to life in prison, who had been acquitted by the trial court as the prosecution appealed against the trial court’s order for acquittal.
Alam said the death sentences of eight were commuted to life imprisonment and four were acquitted of charges.
“The High Court acquitted 12 among those 160, who were originally sentenced to life imprisonment . . . two (of them) died in custody during the trial process (and) simultaneously of the 256 people, who were sentenced to different jail terms, the High Court today upheld sentences of 196” the chief law officer of the state said.
The court also asked for steps to develop amity among the BGB members and (directed particularly) the home ministry to take prompt actions in resolving complaints of BGB members, if there any, to take step in paying of any outstanding dues, acting sympathetically towards their demand of leave and probing intelligence failure over the bloody mutiny, the attorney general said.
Justice Shawkat Hossain was the presiding judge of the bench with Justice Md. Abu Zafar Siddique and Justice Md. Nazrul Islam Talukder being its other members.
The bench came up with the observations that the carnage was pre-planned and was carried out to destabilize then newly elected government and the country as well.
The High Court on April 13, kept the judgment waiting for verdict, after wrapping up the one-year long appeal and death reference hearing of the case.
The trial court had passed the judgment after examining 654 out of 1354 prosecution witnesses in the biggest criminal case in the history of Bangladesh.
The brutal killing of the country’s top army officials in the much hated carnage had created widespread sensation at home and abroad. The mutineers also looted arms and ammunitions during the 33 hours’ siege at the Pilkhana headquarters in the capital Dhaka.