Dhaka: Bangladesh on Saturday jailed another 723 border guards for their role in the bloody 2009 mutiny, bringing the total number of soldiers imprisoned for the uprising to almost 6,000.
Delivering is verdicts on the last of the 57 mutinying units, a paramilitary court here sentenced 723 rebel soldiers to different terms up to seven years of imprisonment.
A total of the 733 accused were brought before the special makeshift court at the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) headquarters, the scene of 2009 mutiny when 74 people including 57 Army officers were killed. The judge acquitted 10 of the accused.
The accused belonged to the Sadar Battalion of the border force, which was previously called Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) and their unit was posted at the Pilkhana during the February 25-26 mutiny.
Sixty four of them were sentenced to highest seven years of imprisonment under the BDR Act.
With the completion of the mutiny trials, a total of 6,011 rebel soldiers, who belonged to 57 BGB units across the country were tried in 11 special paramilitary courts under the BDR Act for ordinary charges of command breach during the mutiny.
Accomplishing the trial of 56 units the paramilitary courts handed down jail terms of different terms to 5,926 rebel soldiers and freed 115 finding them "not guilty" of the mutiny charges.
The core suspects of the carnage, however, are still being tried in a civil sessions judge`s court under Penal Code prescribing death penalty for murder charges while the court officials and concerned lawyers said they expected the trial to be ended by the year end.
"The BGB (Border Guard Bangladesh today entered into a new phase with the completion of the trial of the last group of rebel soldiers," director general of the paramilitary force Major General Anwar Hossain said.
"The trials were done in a transparent manner under the law and BGB now looks forward to emerge as the best possible border force in the world context," he added.
The 11 paramilitary courts tried the mutineers under the
relatively lenient BDR Act that prescribed the highest seven years of imprisonment for ordinary command breach but a parallel legal process is still underway to try the core suspects of the Pilkhana massacre.
The provision of lenient punishment under the BDR Act required the trial of the core suspects to be referred to session judge`s court for murder charges under the country`s civil Penal Code which prescribes death penalty for convicts.
But the BGB chief said at least 20 of the suspects were still on the run to evade justice as they are being tried in absentia while investigators suspected they could be hiding in neighbouring India.
"As a matter of fact we are not confirmed about their (fugitives) current whereabouts but we suspect they can be hiding in India and we conveyed our suspicion to BSF (Border Security Force) and requested them to track them down and return them if found in their territory," Hosssain said.
The rebel soldiers staged the rebellion at Pilkhana at the heart of the capital city on February 25, 2009 but the mutiny quickly spread at sector headquarters and regional units of the frontier force across the country but the casualties took place only at the Pilkhana.
Bangladesh last year renamed the mutiny-stained force as BGB under a massive reconstruction campaign that also witnessed the changes in the border force`s law, uniform, flag and monogram as part of desperate efforts to free the force from the rebellion stigma.