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Bangladesh upholds death sentences for most mutineers

Bangladesh’s High Court has upheld the death sentences for 139 border guards over a mutiny in 2009. (Illustrative photo)

Bangladesh’s High Court has upheld the death sentences of 139 border guards who took part in a deadly mutiny back in 2009.

The Dhaka Metropolitan Sessions Court had formerly sentenced to death 152 members of the Bangladesh Rifles or the BDR force who had taken part in the bloody 2009 mutiny.

In response to an appeal, the High Court on Monday commuted the sentences of eight of the defendants to life in prison, and acquitted four others. One defendant had died in prison. The death sentences for the rest were upheld.

The High Court’s three-member panel announced that the mutineers were “the most brutal” and “cold-blooded” murderers.

The revolt took place on February 25-26, 2009, shortly after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took office. The revolt was a challenge to her then-newly-elected government. The mutineers had turned their guns on their commanders, shooting them at close range or torturing them to death. In total, they killed 74 people, including 57 officers.

Hasina had initially offered an amnesty to the mutineers but then cancelled the offer after dozens of bodies of army officers were found in sewers and mass graves.

“The rebels staged the mutiny so no military officer could serve in BDR, so they killed the innocent officers systematically,” said Attorney-General Mahbubey Alam.

Alam added, however, that the defendants had the right to appeal the High Court ruling at the Supreme Court.

International rights groups had earlier criticized the mass trial, saying it was unfair. Human Rights Watch claimed at least 47 of the mutiny suspects had died in jail. The New York-based rights group also claimed that the defendants’ access to lawyers had been limited.

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