4 YEARS AFTER BDR MUTINY: Families of victims, accused still await justice

Muktadir Rashid

Several hundred families of both victims and accused have been waiting for justice even four years after the February 25-26, 2009 mutiny in the then Bangladesh Rifles and the plotters are still unidentified.

The conspiracy behind the mutiny is yet to be cracked and 5, 926 soldiers have so far been sentenced to varying terms on charges of taking up arms. The trial of 847 people, including 23 civilians, on criminal charges, including murder, is going on.
Families of both accused and victims said that the government did not seem serious about the trials any more.

BDR, later renamed as the Border Guard Bangladesh, however, has witnessed huge reconstruction with the fulfilling of the basic needs of the paramilitary force.
‘We are working in the force [to ensure] that such tragedy does not repeat,’ BGB director general Major General Aziz Ahmed told New Age at his office.

Seventy-five people — 57 army officers, a retired army official, wives of two army officers, nine BDR soldiers, five civilians, an army soldier and a police constable — were killed in the BDR headquarters in Dhaka in February 25-26, 2009 when
the soldiers took up arms against their officers deputed from the army.

Financial assistance has been continuing to the families of slain army officers and only BDR central subedar major Nurul Islam, BGB officials said.

On April 1, 2009, prime minister Sheikh Hasina told parliament that the government would construct apartment buildings on the 2.72 acres of land on 6, Shaheed Mainul Road in Dhaka Cantonment where opposition leader Khaleda Zia used to live under a lease arrangement, and would allot two apartments to each of the families of army officers who were brutally killed in the Peelkhana carnage.

‘Each of the families can live in one flat and rent the other. She [Khaleda] should give the house to the martyrs’ families,’ said Hasina.

Flats in one 14-storey apartment block built on the land have been allotted to serving officers while two other 14-storey buildings are under-construction, the officials said on Saturday.

‘We were told that our family would be given allotment of flats in the building but it has not been done till date,’ said Mahfuzur Rahman, brother of slain Major Mahbubur Rahman.

The government investigation committee, headed by former secretary Anis-uz-Zaman Khan, submitted its report on the mutiny to the home ministry on May 21, 2009 and the army ‘court of inquiry’ submitted its report to the army chief on May 10, 2009.
Both the inquiries could not identify the masterminds and plotters of the mutiny and the killings.

A total of 5,926 soldiers had been sentenced to imprisonment of various terms — from four months to seven years — by different special courts of the border guards on charges of the mutiny in a total of 57 cases, including 11 in Dhaka.

The special courts also acquitted 115 members, who have been taken back in the force with full facilities.

Besides the special courts led by military officers, the other courts called the ‘commanding officer courts’ have taken punitive action against 2,803 personnel.
The BGB authorities were yet to find out the 20 absconding members, who, according to the defence counsels, were important witnesses to the event.

The rights watchdog, Odhikar in its annual report said, ‘The manner of the BDR trials to date has seen various miscarriages of justice.’

About the trials, the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina on November 21, 2012 said at Senakunja in the capital that the government had already completed the trials of 18,520 members of the border force charged with taking part in the mutiny.

Dhaka metropolitan sessions judge Md Jahrul Haque, meanwhile, holding trials of 824 soldiers and 23 civilians, including former BNP lawmaker Nasiruddin Ahmed Pintu and local Awami League leader Torab Ali, on charges of criminal offence, including murder, committed in the border guards headquarters in Dhaka during the mutiny.
The court has recorded depositions of 563 prosecution witnesses out of the total 1,345 since August 24, 2011, when the trial began.

But there were uproars several times at the makeshift courtroom in the city’s Bakshi Bazar in Dhaka that sometimes led to adjournment.

On February 20, the proceedings were adjourned for hours after defence counsels threatened to file a no-confidence petition against the court after it asked the counsels not to cross-examine a prosecution witness.

Slain Major Mahbub’s brother Mahfuzur Rahman, also a prosecution witness in the trial, was critical of the trial process saying that ‘prosecution is not serious enough about justice.’

He demanded fair trial to find out the real culprits.

Talking to New Age, families of a number of accused said that they were waiting for justice.

Adbul Kuddus Tutul, son of subedar Abdul Malek, told New Age, ‘My father is innocent but the special court has sentenced him to seven years in jail. Now we are looking to the civil court for justice.’

Defence counsel Shameem Sardar, who is defending 70 accused, told New Age on Sunday that the court had not recorded the cross-examinations of prosecution witnesses by defence counsels properly; it recorded their brief summaries.

‘The faulty brief summaries will not help us to fight the legal battle,’ he said.
When approached, BDR mutiny case chief prosecutor Anisul Haque said that they were trying to complete the trial in four months.

Besides, some 787 soldiers were released after they served out their jail terms.

The BGB chief said they had sent details to the respective police stations to closely monitor the former BDR men coming out after serving their jail terms.

The government investigation committee said that a group of BDR soldiers had met a number of politicians before the mutiny with demands that included 100 per cent rations, increase in border allowance, recruitment of cadre officers for the BDR, revision of its pay structure in line with that of the army and sending BDR soldiers to UN peacekeeping missions.

Major General Aziz said that the government had reconstructed the Border Guard Bangladesh addressing the demands of the soldiers.

The government has increased the amount of rations and allowances for BGB soldiers who were guarding the 4,427 kilometres border, he said.

The BGB chief said that a decision on sending BGB soldiers to UN peacekeeping missions was under process.

‘I personally talked to foreign defence attachés stationed in Dhaka and our officials stationed abroad to move with the issue,’ he said.

About appointment of the cadre service officials in the force, Aziz Ahmed said, ‘We will appoint civil officers in the force as a part of its ongoing reconstruction.’
The government committee also suggested formation of a central intelligence coordination committee and reallocation of businesses for the intelligence agencies as long-term measures.

Aziz said, ‘We are now effectively sharing intelligence with the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence, National Security Intelligence, Special Branch of police, the army and other agencies concerned.’

Source: New Age