A Bangladeshi court sentenced 152 former members of a paramilitary border security force, the 13th Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) [official website] Battalion, to death on Tuesday in connection with their participation in a February 2009 mutiny [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in which 74 people died, including 57 top political officers. The court also acquitted 271 people. Prosecutors in the case initially brought charges [NYT report] against 850 people, although 277 had been acquitted in August 2011. Defense lawyers for those sentenced to death have stated that they will appeal [AFP report] the decision.
The trials have created a criticism, particularly from Human Rights Watch (HRW), which urged Bangladeshi authorities to order a retrial [JURIST report] last Tuesday. HRW also criticized Bangladesh's conviction of other suspects in the BDR mutiny in mass trials in June 2012. In July 2011 HRW urged the Bangladesh government to ensure the BDR suspects were given fair trials following the June sentencing [JURIST reports] of more than 650 soldiers. Only nine of the individuals accused were acquitted. The mutiny occurred in February 2009 with the first arrests of military personnel [JURIST report] taking place the following March. More than 1,000 were arrested for the mutiny which was motivated by payroll disputes, living conditions, and the promotion of officers from the regular Bangladesh army instead of internally within the BDR.