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Bangladesh court convicts 14 border guards in mutiny trial

A special Bangladeshi military court sentenced 14 members of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) [official website] border guard Monday for their roles in a February 2009 mutiny [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in the northeastern district of Sunamganj. The tribunal, led by BDR head Maj. Gen. Mainul Islam, fined each of the men Tk 100 and sentenced [BDNews24 report] them to prison terms ranging from four months to six years, one year short of the maximum possible sentence for rebellion under Bangladeshi law. The 14 sentenced Monday are just the latest in a series of military and civil trials for the thousands of Bangladeshi citizens and soldiers involved in the 33-hour uprising that left 74 dead. In July, the state charged [AFP report] 824 people—including 801 BDR soldiers—involved in the mutiny with charges ranging from murder and looting to arson and conspiracy. Their trials will proceed in civil court.

About 3,500 other soldiers will face lesser charges in military courts, which have already convicted more than 200 [JURIST report]. Six special courts were established [BD News report] shortly after the Bangladeshi Supreme Court [official website] recommended against [JURIST report] military court-martial trials for BDR members who took part in the mutiny. Dozens of BDR officers, including the force's commander, were killed, their bodies left in sewers and shallow graves during the mutiny, which was sparked by grievances over pay and conditions. President Zillur Rahman [official profile] asked for the court's opinion to determine whether the accused should be tried under the Army Act of 1952 [text] or whether they should face civilian trials. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina [BBC profile] initially offered the mutineers amnesty as part of a deal negotiated to end the uprising, but the agreement was rescinded when the conduct of the mutineers was fully revealed.

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