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Bangladesh considers court-martial for mutiny suspects

[JURIST] Bangladeshi officials said Saturday that the government is considering trying by court-martial [JURIST report] the more than 1,000 border guards accused of participating in the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) [official website] mutiny [BBC backgrounder], which killed dozens of top BDR officials, including the force's commander. Law Minister Shafique Ahmed [official profile] said the government would wait [Daily Star report] for an investigation report before deciding between prosecution under conventional law or special tribunal. Ahmed said BDR members could be tried under the Army Act 1952 [text], while outsiders could face charges under the International War Crime Tribunal Act 1973 or the Special Tribunal Act, which would require a constitutional amendment. The death penalty is available under each of these laws. The US has sent a two-person FBI team [bdnews24 report] to Bangladesh to assist the investigation.

Last week, police in Bangladesh charged [JURIST report] more than 1,000 members of the paramilitary BDR in connection with the mutiny. The incident comes in a time of difficult transition for Bangladesh. Voters elected Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in December 2008, ending two years of military rule. In January, Ahmed declared [JURIST report] his government's desire to restore Bangladesh's 1972 constitution [text, PDF]. Prior to the elections, interim Bangladeshi president Iajuddin Ahmed signed [JURIST report] the Emergency Powers (Repeal) Ordinance of 2008, lifting a two-year state of emergency to allow for political campaigning. The state of emergency, declared in January 2007 [JURIST report], had suspended democratic rights throughout the country.

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