Bangladesh jails 657 border guards for 2009 mutiny

AP News
Posted: Jun 27, 2011 11:59 PM
Bangladesh jails 657 border guards for 2009 mutiny

Hundreds of Bangladeshi border guards who challenged the government in a deadly 2009 mutiny have been sentenced to up to seven years in prison.

The bloody mutiny _ which killed 74 people, most of them commanding officers _ erupted at a crucial time for Bangladesh's troubled democracy, just two months after the powerful military had handed power over to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's newly elected government.

The guards began the revolt in late February 2009 during an annual gathering in the capital of Dhaka. They said they were fighting against alleged discrimination and demanding parity in pay and other perks enjoyed by commanding army officers.

The mutineers opened fire, blocked roads and drove officers out of their offices and homes. Fifty-seven commanders, including the head of the paramilitary border security agency, were among the dead.

The uprising quickly spread across the impoverished country that has struggled for decades with shaky democracy and chronic flooding that has stymied economic development. The military has backed 21 coups since the country's 1971 independence from Pakistan.

A court on Monday sentenced 108 border guards to seven-year prison sentences, and another 549 guards to sentences ranging between four months to six years, the force's chief Maj. Gen. Rafiqul Islam said.

Hundreds of others charged in the case have yet to face the special court handling mutiny cases.

The military has been angry with Hasina's handling of the mutiny, which ended in negotiations and offers of amnesty for mutiny leaders.

The government rescinded the amnesty offers, however, after dozens of bodies were found dumped in shallow graves and sewers. Hasina has pledged justice for the victims' families.