Probe coups between 1975 & 1981: B'desh war veterans

Dhaka: Several former army generals and survivors of a series of military coups in Bangladesh between 1975 and 1981 today demanded constitution of a 'truth commission' to investigate into the putsches and mass killings.

"I can tell you with responsibility, these incidents (coups and killings in army) were staged under a plot to turn Bangladesh army into Pakistani military, killing the (1971) Liberation War veterans," former army chief Harunur Rashid told at the launching of the 10-hour long documentary 'Bloodbath in the Military Bangladesh (1975-1981)'.

He proposed formation of a 'truth commission' to let the people know about the dark chapters inside the army and de-stigmatise the military as Anwar Kabir, a journalist released his film at the Liberation War Museum premises here.

An unnumbered army officers and soldiers believed to be several thousand in number were killed in controversial court marshals as Bangladesh witnesses a series of coups and counter coups since the assassination of the country's founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman along with most of his family members on August 15, 1975.

"These all were extra judicial killings in the name of so-called trial," Dhaka University Vice Chancellor Professor Arefin Siddiqui told as the chief guest in the function, joined by a number of former military officers, coup survivors and members of victim families and politicians including JSD chief Hasanul Haque Inu MP.

He said despite the passage of several years, the people were largely still in dark while many of the victims' families were yet to know how and why their close relatives were killed.

Kabir, who have been carrying out an extensive research on the "massacres in army" and authored several books on the coups, completed the documentary containing 70 interviews of ex-military officers including military judges and army officials familiar with the coup investigations, survivors, victims family members, analysts and many rare video footages.

"I completed the documentary making process two years ago, but could not release it for want of a favourable situation while chose to launch it today coinciding with the death anniversary of 1971 veteran Colonel Taher, the first military officer to walk towards the gallows in 1976 following a military court trial, widely believed to be a farcical one," Kabir said.

This was also the first incident of hanging in independent Bangladesh. Several survivors said it took the so-called trials in most cases took only a minute to hand down death sentences to soldiers and officers on the dock by military judges while several officers who acted as investigators and defence lawyers said many people were hanged, though no evidence were found against them.

Bureau Report