DHAKA: A Bangladeshi court was set Tuesday to deliver its long-awaited verdict on some 800 soldiers, many of whom face the death penalty if convicted over a bloody 2009 military mutiny.
The soldiers allegedly took part in the massacre of 74 people including top army officers who were hacked to death, tortured and burnt alive before their bodies were dumped in sewers and shallow graves.
Security was tight at the specially-built court in Dhaka, with police and elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) officers deployed outside, ahead of the verdict later Tuesday.
“We have deployed around 2,000 police and RAB officers in and around the court compound,” deputy police commissioner for Dhaka Harunur Rashid told AFP.
Prosecutors have sought the death penalty for many of the 823 soldiers who are charged with murder, torture, conspiracy and other offences over the 30-hour uprising that started at the Bangladeshi Rifles (BDR) headquarters in Dhaka.
Nearly 6,000 soldiers have already been jailed by dozens of special courts over the mutiny that spread to other BDR bases around the country and left 74 people including left 57 army officers dead.
The 823 soldiers were singled out for prosecution in a civilian court after they were found guilty in military courts over their role in the mutiny. Twenty-three civilians have also been charged with criminal conspiracy.
Lead prosector Baharul Islam said the case was the largest of its type in the world with hundreds of witnesses taking part in the trial that started in January 2011 and finished in October this year.
“So far as we know it’s the largest case in the world’s history. There were 654 prosecution witnesses,” Islam said ahead of the verdict.
The verdict was delayed last week after the judge said he needed more time to finish writing it.
During the uprising, the mutineers stole an estimated 2,500 weapons and broke into an annual meeting of top BDR officers before shooting them at point blank range.
As the mutiny spread, it briefly threatened the new government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, which had been elected only one month previously.
The cause of the violence is uncertain but pent-up anger over poor benefits and resentment by soldiers against BDR senior officers – who do not come from within the BDR – is widely seen as the main factor.