Dhaka assures fair trial for mutineers


Dhaka : The Bangladesh Government has said it would hold a fair trial of the border guards who staged a mutiny last month and will allow them facility for self-defence.

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The assurance came two days after Human Rights Watch, a US-based body, expressed concern at civilians being tried by a military court and sought transparency of the legal processes involved, The Daily Star newspaper reported Saturday.

Law Minister Shafique Ahmed said: “I (have) repeatedly said the trial process will be fair and transparent. The accused will be given chance for self-defence.”

The minister said the rules and procedures would be decided after the government receives report of a high level team investigating the mutiny of Feb 25-26 in which 76 people, including 56 officers of the Bangladesh Army on deputation to the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), were killed.

At a discussion organised by the BBC Bangladesh Sangalp, speakers urged the people in the government and in the opposition to refrain from making observations about the mutineers while the probe is on.

Matia Choudhury, agriculture minister and a close confidante of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said: “Sometimes silence is golden.”

Hasina and her ministers have variously called the mutiny a “conspiracy” with participation by “outsiders”, including members of banned Islamist militant outfits.

Commerce Minister Faruk Khan, who is coordinating the probe at different levels, told reporters Saturday that the investigations were yielding information about involvement of these forces.

Videotapes show many troopers carrying their rifles with red slings, which is not part of the BDR uniform, the minister said.

BDR Director General Mohammed Mainul Hussain said: “We have information from different sources and witnesses that some armed people and vehicles entered Pilkhana (BDR headquarters) during the Feb 25-26 bloodbath. We are verifying the information gathered so far and it will take more time to come to a conclusion on the matter.”

“A few survivors from the carnage said they had seen a few armed people getting down from a grey pick-up van inside the BDR headquarters Feb 25,” Hussain, a serving army brigadier general said.

He said the 67,000-force would be “raised afresh” with a new name, logo and uniform.

The BDR was East Bengal Rifles during the Pakistan era and traces its origin to the raising of the Bengal Army by the British 200 years ago.