High Court starts delivering Peelkhana massacre verdict, sentencing may come Monday

The High Court has started delivering its verdict over the killings of 74 people, mostly army officers, during the 2009 mutiny at the border guards’ headquarters in Dhaka’s Peelkhana.

Staff Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 26 Nov 2017, 05:51 AM
Updated : 26 Nov 2017, 10:27 AM

A three-member bench led by Justice Md Shawkat Hossain started announcing the verdict, with observations of over 1,000 pages, on Sunday morning.

In court, Justice Hossain, however, said it cannot be confirmed when the bench would be able to complete reading out the verdict.

Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said the sentencing was not announced on Sunday and the procedure would continue through Monday.

The larger bench with Justice Md Abu Zafor Siddique and Justice Md Nazrul Islam Talukder as the two other members was formed in 2015 to hear the case, largest in Bangladesh's history in terms of the number of convicts.

The mutiny that continued for two days eight years ago, a month after a new government took office, sent shock waves across Bangladesh and to the rest of the world.

In November 2013, a special court of an additional metropolitan sessions judge awarded the death penalty to 152 jawans and non-commissioned officers of the erstwhile Bangladesh Rifles or BDR for the massacre.

The court sentenced 161 others to life in prison and 256 to three to 10 years in jail. It acquitted 277.

Never before had so many accused, 850 in total, been tried in a single case in the history of Bangladesh.

Four of the accused died during the trial while BNP leader Nasir Uddin Ahmed Pintu died after conviction.

The bench heard the death references, and appeals for more than a year and put the case up for the verdict on Apr 13.

Death sentences issued by the trial court are forwarded as death references for the High Court's approval.

At the beginning of Sunday’s proceedings for the verdict at 10:45am, Justice Md Abu Zafor Siddique spoke on the trial process and the Peelkhana massacre.

He continued until the court recessed at 1am. “The observations of this verdict are more than 1,000 pages.”

When the counsels asked how long it may take, Justice Md Shawkat Hossain said: “We can’t say that. What we can say is that it’s a unanimous verdict.”

Speaking to reporters, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said it might take a few days, if the court decides to read out the entire verdict.

“But the judges may not go for that. They may switch to the sentencing after reading out the verdict.”

The court said the three judges have unanimously decided on the sentences. “But their observations may differ,” AG Alam said.

After the mutiny in 2009, some suggested deeper conspiracies behind the rebellion, but police investigators concluded that the BDR personnel's grievances led them to revolt.

The trial court, in its verdict on the case of murder and looting, observed that the mutiny was orchestrated with the motive to destroy the military security system and might have been engineered to weaken the economy.

It said involving the border guards in market activities like 'Operation Dal Bhat', introduced by caretaker government, had been 'unwise'.

The court believed there were intelligence 'gaps' that held back critical information of a brewing mutiny.