DHAKA: A Bangladesh court jailed 611 border guards for their role in a bloody 2009 military mutiny, bringing the total number of soldiers imprisoned for the unrest to more than 4,000, a prosecutor said.
Scores of senior army officers were killed during an uprising that began when soldiers at the Bangladeshi Rifles (BDR) headquarters in the capital Dhaka went on a killing spree, later dumping the bodies in sewers and shallow graves. A special military court in Dhaka on Saturday found 611 border guards from the force’s 13th battalion guilty of joining the mutiny, state prosecutor Manjur Alam said.
“Of the 621 soldiers charged, 10 were acquitted and 611 were handed out prison terms starting from four months to seven years. At least 55 soldiers were sentenced to maximum seven years in jail,” Alam said. The mutiny spread from Dhaka to BDR posts across the country, with thousands of guards taking up arms against their commanding officers in the worst military rebellion in Bangladesh’s history.
Dozens of special courts — run by the military using a mix of martial and civilian law — were set up to prosecute mutineers, with the first verdict, convicting 29 soldiers, being handed down in April 2010.
More than 4,000 BDR soldiers have now been convicted, Alam said, in what prosecutors say is the biggest case in the country’s history.
The courts headed by military officers do not allow defendants to have lawyers and there is no right of appeal. Seven years in jail is the maximum penalty they can impose. The BDR has since changed its name to the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) in an effort to distance itself from the mutiny. Soldiers accused of more serious offences — including murder — are being tried separately in civilian courts and could face the death penalty if convicted.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh’s top university ordered a probe on Sunday into a doctoral thesis by a political science teacher who claimed to have interviewed 1.3 million people in three years – more than 1,000 a day.
Dhaka University’s Mohammad Noor Uddin was awarded a PhD last year for his research, “The Practices of Marxism and Their Impact on Modern World: The case of Objectivisation”. He said he interviewed 1.275 million people for the research carried out between June 2008 and May 2011, meaning he interviewed about 1,200 people every day, Dhaka University vice-chancellor Arefin Siddique said.
“We ordered an inquiry into the thesis work after the dean of the political science faculty and five fellow teachers made complaints. A five-man committee led by university’s pro-vice chancellor will investigate the matter,” he said. “We have included an Internet expert into the inquiry team as he (Uddin) has claimed that he interviewed all these people through online,” Siddique added.