News / Asia

Court Issues Death Sentences in Bangladesh Mutiny Case

Handcuffed border guards arrive at a special court in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Nov. 5, 2013.
Handcuffed border guards arrive at a special court in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Nov. 5, 2013.
VOA News
A court in Bangladesh has sentenced 152 people to death for participating in a border guard mutiny in which 74 people died, including more than 50 military commanders.

Dhaka's Metropolitan Sessions Court handed down the sentences on Tuesday, along with sentences of life in prison for 157 other participants. Acquittals were handed down for 271 others.

The case over the two-day mutiny of February 25-26, 2009, involves 846 defendants charged with such crimes as murder and arson. 

The case has sparked criticism both within Bangladesh and among outside observers.

  • A relative of a prisoner cries after the verdict for a 2009 mutiny was announced, Dhaka, Nov. 5, 2013.
  • A border guard cries inside a prison van as he leaves a special court after a verdict in Dhaka, Nov. 5, 2013.
  • Relatives react as a police van carrying prisoners arrives at the gate of the central jail after the verdict was announced for a 2009 mutiny, Dhaka, Nov. 5, 2013.
  • A border guard who was sentenced to death reacts as he leaves a special court in Dhaka, Nov. 5, 2013.
  • A border guard who was acquitted reacts as he leaves a special court in Dhaka, Nov. 5, 2013.

Defense analyst and former election commissioner retired Brigadier Shakhawat Hossain said in an interview with VOA's Bangla service that the trial exposed serious flaws within the country's intelligence infrastructure.

"What it seems is that in many intelligence organizations which have no coordination and there's no ethics body who would coordinate within the various intelligence organizations," said Shakhawat. "And that is what the biggest problem and that is what observed by the court."

Hossain said that Bangladesh's intelligence services failed to head off the massacre is even more glaring given the number of high profile officials who were visiting the border guard headquarters around the time the mutiny took place, which coincided with a week of festivities celebrating the border guards.

"What my view is that the government should give it a serious sort of part of having an umbrella organization under which would be all of the intelligence organizations reporting through a channel," he said.

But fixing the intelligence gaps may not be so easy, warned Hossian.

"All the intelligence agencies, be it civil or military, has been to a larger extent been politicized and used for political purpose.  And that saps the professionalism within the intelligence community.  And this is definitely one of the greatest anxiety being seen in this country and it must be corrected."

Bangladesh has also come under heavy criticism from human rights groups ahead of Tuesday's verdict.

New York-based Human Rights Watch called for a retrial, citing evidence torture and abuse were used to extract confessions.

"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," said
Human Rights Watch Asia Director Brad Adams

Human Rights Watch also alleged that at least 47 suspects died in custody.

Border guards rebelled in 2009 after unsuccessfully demanding a raise in pay and other changes.

Tuesday's court ruling comes as Bangladesh undergoes a three-day strike by the political opposition, aimed at forcing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to step down.

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Comment Sorting
by: Enayet Mowla from: US
November 16, 2013 8:05 PM
It may be true that Brigadier Sakhawat and the Defense analysts find many faults in the activities of the intelligence organizations, but this situation is expected in any country where the administrative powers change continuously from Martial Law to democratic govts. I do not think anybody can point at a particular point now and claim that the fault lies there. It has also been claimed that the mutiny was arranged by certain quarter to discredit the new Awami League Govt. As far as I am concern, there was a mutiny when many senior Army Officers died, and therefore the murderers should be punished. It may be mentioned in this connection how the situation was handled. Army came with tanks to blow up the whole establishment to take revenge when only one lady faced them and turned the whole contingent back. It took guts.I should know because I was only half a mile from where it all happened.

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