A Bangladeshi court handed down death penalty to 152 former paramilitary soldiers on Tuesday,after convicting them guilty of killing 74 people,including 57 army officers,during a mutiny in 2009.
“They will be hanged by the neck until they are dead,” ruled Judge Mohammad Akhtaruzzaman of the Third Additional Metropolitan Sessions Court,in what is being dubbed as the world’s biggest ever criminal trial.
“The atrocities were so heinous that even the dead bodies were not given their rights,” Judge Akhtaruzzaman told the packed court in the capital Dhaka.
Out of 846 accused 26 of them being civilians,the court handed down life imprisonments to 158 rebel soldiers and three to 10 years of imprisonment to 251 others and acquitted 242 finding their no involvement in the carnage.
Former lawmaker of main opposition BNP Nasiruddin Ahmed Pintu and Awami League leader and ex-BDR soldier Torab Ali were awarded life sentence. Some 823 ex-soldiers of Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) were earlier brought into the makeshift court room,sitting silently on long rows of benches before sessions judge to hear the long-awaited verdict.
Some of the victims’ families were also in court.
Security was tight at the court,with over 1,000 policemen and members of elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion guarding the makeshift court complex at old Dhaka.
“It is possibly one of the biggest criminal trials in the world in terms of the number of accused,witnesses testified and the people killed…It is unique they got normal trial under the ordinary law of the country,” chief prosecutor Anisul Huq had earlier said.
Dhaka’s then sessions Judge Johurul Haque initiated the trial proceedings on January 5,2011 against the ex-soldiers of BDR,which was subsequently renamed as Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) under a massive reconstruction campaign to overcome the mutiny stigma.
The rebel soldiers staged the mutiny at the BDR’s Pilkhana headquarters at the heart of the capital on February 25,2009,and it quickly spread at sector headquarters and regional units of the frontier force across the country.
The paramilitary soldiers turned their guns on their commanders,shooting them from close range or hacking and torturing them to death,hiding their bodies in sewers.
They staged the revolt during the annual Darbar or meeting of soldiers with the top brasses. The then BDR chief Major General Shakil Ahmed was their first victim.
The killings took place at Pilkhana only during the three-day mutiny,while the rebel soldiers outside Dhaka just defied the command,took charges of the armoury and came out of their barracks confining their commanders from military inside.