Bangladesh on Monday charged 824 people, most of them Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) personnel, for the 2009 bloody mutiny in which 57 army officers, including the organisation chief Major General Shakil Ahmed were massacred, kicking off the long-awaited trial.
The charges against 801 BDR personnel and 23 civilians ranged from murder, conspiracy, looting military arsenals and aiding and abetting mutiny, chief investigator Abdul Kahar Akand said, indicating that the trial would take a year to complete.
“We have submitted today the charge sheet after 500 days of investigations” following the February 25-26 carnage, Mr. Akand, who is from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), told PTI.
Pointing out that the killings were pre-planned, Mr. Akand said the civilian accused included the controversial former lawmaker of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Nasiruddin Ahmed Pintu and a local leader of the ruling Awami League, Torab Ali.
The charge sheet in the 33-hour mutiny was filed before a magistrate at the downtown Dhaka’s Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court.
The Speedy Trial Tribunal is obligated to complete the trial in 135 days and could award the highest death penalties under the civil Penal Code.
“The number of accused is the highest ever in any criminal case in the country. I am afraid it may not be tried within the stipulated period,” Mosharraf Hossain Kajol, special government prosecutor, told PTI, suggesting an amendment to extend the timeframe up to 365 working days.
The massacre, which shook the newly-installed Hasina government, took place when the chief of the BDR and other military officers were addressing troops in Peelkhana headquarters in the capital.
The mutineers, who had looted the armoury, massacred 74 people, including 57 army officers.
All of the accused, who are being tried in Bangladesh’s civil courts, have been charged with murder and could face the death penalty, an official said.
Mr. Akand said nearly 200 police officers with assistance of U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and British Scotland Yard carried out the investigation.
“We expect all the suspects to be awarded exemplary punishment,” he said.