Bangladesh sentences border guards for 2009 mutiny

FENI, Bangladesh (AP) — Dozens of border guards were sentenced by a special court in Bangladesh on Sunday for staging a mutiny last year that killed 74 people, mostly army officers.

The guards, known as the Bangladesh Rifles, say they revolted over long-standing demands for parity in pay and other perks enjoyed by army officers, who command the border forces.

On Sunday, 57 guards were given sentences ranging from four months to seven years. Four defendants received the maximum, according to Judge Maj. Gen. Mainul Islam.

He said they were found guilty of taking up arms, firing and blocking a road during the Feb. 25-26 uprising.

The special court deals with only mutiny charges, and those accused of crimes like murder and arson will be tried separately.

Fifty-seven army commanders were among those killed in the mutiny that began at the guards' headquarters in Dhaka and spread to border camps across the country. It occurred just two months after the country's powerful military, which has backed 21 coups in the country's 38-year history, relinquished power to a civilian government under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The military was furious with how Hasina handled the mutiny, which was ended through negotiations, including offers of amnesty. But when dozens of bodies — including those of dozens of commanding officers — were discovered dumped into shallow graves or sewers on the sprawling compound, the government rescinded the amnesty offer for those who led the mutiny.

Sunday's sentences were the third set related to the mutiny. Earlier this month 79 border guards were sentenced separately to jail terms ranging from four months to seven years in northern Bangladesh.

The government has so far arrested 2,136 members of the force in connection with the mutiny, and has set up six special courts headed by Islam to hear the cases.

Hasina has said she will ensure justice for the families of the mutiny victims.