Dhaka: Over 300 soldiers were sentenced to varying prison terms of up to seven years by a Bangladeshi court ton Saturday for their involvement in the 2009 bloody mutiny at the country`s frontier paramilitary force, in which 74 people were killed.
A special Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) court sentenced 309 more soldiers for different sentences on charges like showing solidarity with mutineers and staying inactive to prevent the mutiny. So far over 3,000 soldiers have been sentenced on similar charges.
However, one soldier was acquitted as the prosecution could not prove his involvement in the country`s worst ever mutiny that shook the country on February 25-26, 2009.
Among the 74 killed was the then chief of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), Major General Shakil Ahmed. Fifty-seven soldiers were among those who died at the force`s headquarters.
"You had claimed yourself innocent but you are being convicted on the basis of the evidence placed before the court and other considerations... You will serve the term in non-military jail," chairman of the court Colonel Khandakar Obaidul Ahsan pronounced as he handed down the verdicts.
The soldiers on trial were accused of deserting officers during the mutiny, showing solidarity with mutineers, revolting with firearms, staying inactive to prevent mutiny and failing to control unruly colleagues.
Witnesses said the accused of the 36 Rifles Battalion unit were brought in prison vans to the court at the Pilkhana`s Darbar barefooted and in shackles under tight security.
They silently listened to the verdicts as the four-member court took nearly three hours to hand down the sentences ranging between two months to seven years.
While the soldiers accused of minor offences are being tried in special paramilitary courts, a parallel trial of the "core mutiny culprits" is underway at the Dhaka sessions judge`s court under the civil penal code that entails the highest death penalty.
Several thousand soldiers of the then Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), now rechristened as Border Guards Bangladesh, took up weapons against their superior officers on the two fateful days of February 2009.
The mutiny quickly spread in 47 other units outside the capital though the casualties took place only at the Pilkhana headquarters.
The mutineers were exposed to trial under six paramilitary courts under the BDR Act under which 3,423 soldiers have so far been sentenced across the country, while 2,622 still await the verdict on charges of ordinary disobedience or breach of command and indiscipline.
In line with a Supreme Court directive, the core suspects were tried under the civil penal code for major charges like killings, lootings, and firing gunshots during the carnage. Fifty seven then BDR soldiers are still on the run.