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B'desh: Prosecution demands 'highest punishment' for mutineers

By Anisur Rahman
November 25, 2009 15:39 IST
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The prosecution demanded the "highest sentence" for the accused in a bloody mutiny by border guards early this year that left 57 Bangladeshi army officers, including their chief Major General Shakil Ahmed, dead. As the nine accused were hauled up before a paramilitary court at southeastern Rangamati cantonment, the prosecution, on Wednesday served them with copies of charge sheets in which they sought the "highest punishment" for them. "I demand the highest punishment for the accused under the Bangladesh Rifles Act," chief prosecutor Lieutenant Colonel Habibul Karim told the four-member court headed by paramilitary force's chief Major General Mainul Islam.

Besides, the trial of the nine accused, around 2000 Bangladesh Rifles personnel are going to be tried, most of them under a relatively lenient BDR act which only prescribes 7 years imprisonment as the highest punishment. But another 2000 soldiers involved in killings and lootings at BDR headquarters at Pilkhana in Dhaka would face trial on massacre charges under tough Speedy Trial Tribunal under civil Penal Code and could be awarded death sentence.

The trial of the first batch comprised 2000 soldiers who were detained from 29 frontier districts outside Dhaka for joining the mutiny. They are also charged with looting weapons at the BDR sector or battalion headquarters as the rebellion spread from the BDR central headquarters in Dhaka.

The trial began on Tueday as a BDR statement had announced constitution of six special courts, two to sit in Dhaka and four others outside the capital, under Bangladesh Rifles Order 1972 to try the mutineers who did not take part in the killings or looting while the BDR chief would chair all the courts."The chairman of the court allowed the nine accused rebel soldiers 27 days to prepare their defence lines saying they could seek the assistance of BDR officers or independent lawyers in this regard," a journalist who witnessed the proceedings told PTI.

Under the act for the paramilitary guards, an accused can defend himself and also could take help from a BDR official or a lawyer but they would not be allowed to plead in the BDR court in the usual manner. The journalist said during the 15-minute proceedings, the court --that comprised a Lieutenant Colonel, a Major and a representative of the attorney general -–also asked the accused if they were exposed to any misbehaviour in captivity.    

"The five who came from the jail were attired in civil dress but the court ordered all the accused to appear in BDR uniforms but without waist belts during the next hearings since they still are in service," he said, adding the hearing was adjourned until December 27.

The BDR chief who spoke to PTI over phone yesterday said the trial of the mutineers in five other courts will also continue simultaneously and during the trial in one court the proceedings in five others will be adjourned.

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Anisur Rahman in Dhaka
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