Bangladesh Court Confirms Death Sentences for Soldiers in 2009 Mutiny

Prapti Rahman
171127_BGB_1000.JPG Rebel Bangladesh Rifles soldiers take position in front of their headquarters in Dhaka during a mutiny that killed 74 people, Feb. 25, 2009.
Monirul Alam/BenarNews

Bangladesh’s High Court on Monday upheld death sentences for 139 people, mostly members of the former Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), who were involved in a mutiny and massacre in February 2009.

As many as 57 army officers were killed during the massacre of 74 people that took place over two days at the Dhaka headquarters of BDR, which was later renamed the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB).

“The court observed that the carnage was pre-planned and was carried out to destabilize the then newly elected government and the country as well,” Attorney Gen. Mahbubey Alam told reporters, quoting from the 1,000-page verdict and referring to the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who remains in power eight years on.

In 2013, a trial court in Dhaka sentenced 152 people to death and 160 others to life in prison over the mutiny. Four received seven-year jail terms and 69 were acquitted. Never had so many defendants been tried in a single case in the history of Bangladesh, which was born in 1971.

On Monday, High Court justices Md Nazrul Islam Talukder, Md Shawkat Hossain and Md Abu Zafor Siddique High court acquitted four of the 152 on death row and commuted the sentences of eight others to life in prison. One prisoner had died already, bringing the count to 139.

Of the 160 originally sentenced to life, 146 saw their sentences upheld. Along with the eight who had been on death row and 31 who had been acquitted by the trial court, the total number of defendants serving life sentences is 185.

The court wrapped up the judgment at around 4:30 p.m. Monday, a day after it started pronouncing the verdict.

“All the three judges are unanimous in the verdict,” Alam told reporters. “The High Court has delivered an appropriate judgment.”

The defendants can appeal to Bangladesh’s Supreme Court.

Reactions mixed

The mutiny began during an officers meeting at BDR headquarters on Feb. 25, 2009. At 9:27 a.m., one of mutineers entered the meeting and pointed a gun at then-border guard chief Maj. Gen. Shakil Ahmed.

Other mutineers stole thousands of weapons from BDR headquarters before embarking on a killing spree in the barracks. In addition, mutineers stormed the BDR chief’s home, killing his wife, guests and staff before burning down the building.

Relatives of the slain army officers said they were satisfied by the court’s verdict and eager to proceed with the executions.

“We have lost everything during the mutiny. The court, though late, has given its judgment. We became hopeless and [were relying entirely] on the state,” Nehrin Ferdaus, the widow of slain Lt. Col. Md Mujibul Huq, told BenarNews. “Now we want to see implementation of the verdict.”

Relatives of defendants, on the other hand, gathered in the court area beginning on Sunday, hoping for acquittals or to see death sentences commuted.

Nayek Subedar Ali Akbar, who has been in the prison for seven years, was among those acquitted by the high court.

“We were in pain. The allegation of my husband’s involvement in such a heinous crime made us ashamed. We were humiliated in the society. But I knew it well that my husband was innocent,” his wife, Rehana Akter, said through tears.

Court’s ruling

In its verdict, the court found that an intelligence failure led to the BDR mutiny, and it urged the government to investigate the cause of the uprising.

“The BGB authorities should make an inquiry into the matter by forming a probe committee. …  They should make the probe report public as early as possible,” the court said.

“Either internal or external quarters were involved in hatching a conspiracy to uproot, dethrone and depose the newly formed government headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina following the parliamentary election in 2008,” the court observed.

“The mutineers hatched a conspiracy to destabilise the country, damage the country’s internal security and stability and hamper Bangladesh’s participation in the U.N. peacekeeping mission.”

The court also issued a seven-point recommendation to avoid any recurrence in the future.

“The authorities should provide fast decision or reply to all problems of BGB members, pay outstanding dues, consider leave matters and mitigate all the grievances, if any,” the court said, listing some of its recommendations.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.