[JURIST] A Bangladeshi special court in the district of Sathkhira on Monday sentenced 56 members of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) [official website] on charges relating to their involvement in last year's border guard mutiny [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] that left 74 dead. Of the 60 charged [AP report] with taking up arms, firing, driving their army commanders out of offices and homes, and blocking a road during the 33-hour mutiny, 24 received the maximum seven-year sentence, and only four were acquitted. Civilian courts will hear the more serious charges [AFP report] faced by another 2,200 guards, such as murder, for which those found guilty may be subject to the death penalty. These were the fourth set of convictions relating to the mutiny, coming just one day after a special court in Feni convicted 57 BDR members [JURIST report] on similar charges.
The six special courts were established [Priyo report] shortly after the Bangladeshi Supreme Court [official website] recommended against [JURIST report] military court-martial trials for BDR members who took part in the mutiny. Dozens of BDR officers, including the force's commander, were killed and their bodies left in sewers and shallow graves during the mutiny, which was sparked by grievances over pay and conditions. President Zillur Rahman [official profile] asked for the court's opinion to determine whether the accused should be tried under the Army Act of 1952 [text] or whether they should face civilian trials. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina [BBC profile] initially offered the mutineers amnesty as part of a deal negotiated to end the uprising, but the agreement was rescinded when the conduct of the mutineers was fully revealed.