Nearly a year after the bloody BDR mutiny, 86 out of the 700 paramilitary troopers who allegedly took part in the massacre of 57 Bangladeshi Army officers were put to trial by a special court on Tuesday.
The trial began at the Darbar Hall of the Pilkhana headquarters of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), where the 33-hour mayhem took place on February 25-26 last year.
“The trial of 86 alleged (ordinary) mutineers of Dhaka sector (of BDR) began today at the fifth Special BDR Court under the Bangladesh Rifles Act,” a BDR spokesman told PTI.
This is the first in a series of mutiny trials to be held in the capital under the relatively lenient BDR Act which prescribed the highest seven years of imprisonment for defiance of order and discipline, while the process to expose the massacre culprits to tougher Speedy Trial Tribunal were underway.
The suspects appeared in the courtroom in BFR uniforms without belts and caps as a three—member panel of judges headed by BDR chief Major General Mainul Islam began the trial at the Darbar Hall, the scene where most of the 57 army officers were killed as the border guards took up weapons to kill the officers holding their families hostage.
The trial began with placing charges against the BDR personnel by prosecutors while of the 86 BDR men, 19 remain in detention, two are absconding while 65 continuing their services in the headquarters.
A senior CID official earlier told PTI that they detected nearly 700 BDR soldiers who were directly took part in the killings and torturing women and children from among some 2100 detained paramilitary border guards who were present at the Pilkhana Headquarters on February 25-26.
The government earlier decided to try the suspected massacre culprits under the fast track Speedy Trial Tribunal under Penal Code and others who extended support to the mutiny but did not take part in the killings under the BDR Act.
The BDR in November last year constituted 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 lootings.
Four of the courts, all headed by the BDR chief, have already started the trial in four frontier districts of Rangamati, Satkhira, Feni and Panchagarh in BDR installations as BDR soldiers joined the mutiny in 29 border districts breaking in arsenals and looting weapons as the rebellion broke out in Pilkhana headquarters in Dhaka.
Today’s development came as the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of police said they were ready to file charge sheet for the trial of the massacre culprits completing their investigation in the past one year.
He said nearly 8,000 people including politicians, ministers, surviving BDR officers and officials of the elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), police and fire service and family members of the assassinated officers were enlisted as prosecution witnesses.
CID officials earlier said they so far detained a total of 2159 people including 35 civilians including former lawmaker of main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Nasir Uddin Ahmed Pintu for their suspected involvement in the mutiny and subsequent massacre in which a total of 73 people were killed.
Apart from the 57 army officers, the mutineers killed eight civilians, eight fellow BDR soldiers and an army soldier as the two-day rebellion shattered the country just two months after the installation of the new government after the landmark December 29, 2008.
The rebellious soldiers at that time claimed a sense of “deprivation” prompted them to stage the mutiny while the demanded the frontier force should be freed from “military domination.”
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently gave her consent for reforms in mutiny infested BDR, renaming it as Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) with a new combat uniform.