The civilian trial of 800 soldiers charged with crimes stemming from their roles in a February 2009 mutiny [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] began Wednesday in the Bangladeshi capital city of Dhaka. The soldiers were charged [AFP report] in July with crimes including murder, conspiracy and looting military weapons, among others. This is the latest in a series of military and civil trials for the thousands of citizens and soldiers involved in the mutiny, which left 74 dead, but these charges are the most serious to date with those found guilty of murder facing the death penalty. The trial [BBC report], which is expected to last over a year and to include the testimonies of more than1,000 individuals, was adjourned until February 3, when the charges against the defendants will be read in full.
In August, a special Bangladeshi military court sentenced [JURIST report] 14 members of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) [official website] border guard for their roles in the mutiny. 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. 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 and their bodies left in sewers and shallow graves during the mutiny, which was sparked by grievances over pay and working conditions.