Bangladesh to charge 900 for deadly mutiny

DHAKA: A Bangladeshi state prosecutor said today that about 900 border guards would be tried in civil courts on murder, arson and looting charges related to a deadly mutiny last February.

Seventy-four people, including 57 senior army officers, were killed in the 33-hour siege that briefly threatened the survival of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s newly elected civilian government.

“We have found that around 900 Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) soldiers took part in the murder of army officers, looting, arson and the torture of family members of the officers,” state prosecutor Mosharraf Hossain Kazal told AFP. “We are in the final stage of the investigation. They will be charged soon,” he said, adding that the maximum punishment for murder under Bangladesh’s penal code was death by hanging.

The bodies of those killed in the mutiny, which started February 25, were disposed of in sewers and shallow graves and discovered in the days after the bloodshed ended when the mutineers fled in civilian dress. As part of the criminal investigation, more than 7,000 border guards have been questioned and 2,205 have been arrested, chief police investigator Abdul Kahhar Akhand said.

The latest prosecutions will run in parallel to a separate military-led investigation and trial process for soldiers alleged to have been involved in the mutiny, which spread across 40 BDR posts throughout Bangladesh.

An estimated 3,500 people face charges in these military-run Special Courts for their involvement in the mutiny. Defendants in these courts face a maximum penalty of seven years in prison. On Tuesday, a Special Court opened in the capital for 86 border guards suspected of involvement in the mutiny.