High Court starts reading verdict on Peelkhana murders during 2009 BDR mutiny

A three-member High Court bench led by Justice Md Shawkat Hossain began announcing the verdict at 10:54am on Sunday.

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 court will also issue the verdict on the state’s appeal for increasing prison terms to those sentenced to different time periods and against the release of 194.

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.

The Supreme Court announced the final date of the verdict on its website on Nov 12.

Attorney General Mahbubey Alam, Additional Attorneys General Murad Reza, Momtaz Uddin Fakir and Mosharraf Hossain Kajal, and Deputy Attorneys General Mosharraf Hossain Sardar, Sheikh Baharul Islam and Zahid Sarwar Kajal stood for the State in the hearing of the death references and appeals. Hasna Begum was the lawyer appointed by the State for the case.   

Khandaker Mahbub Hossain, Abdul Baset Majumder, Mohsin Rashid, SM Shahjahan, ASM Abdul Mubin, Md Aminul Islam, Daudur Rahman Mina, and Shamim Sarder were among the lawyers for the accused.

In November 2013, a special court of an additional metropolitan sessions judge awarded the death penalty to 152 jawans and non-commissioned officer of the erstwhile Bangladesh Rifles or BDR for the 2009 Peelkhana mutiny 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.

Seventy-four people, including 57 army officers, who were posted in the paramilitary border guard force, were killed in the Feb 25-26 mutiny in 2009.

The mutiny in the force, a month after a new government took office, sent shock waves across Bangladesh and to the rest of the world.

When the High Court put the case up for the verdict on Apr 13, Attorney General Alam said, “Some of the accused should have been sentenced to death, but they were not awarded the capital punishment.”

He said the State appealed for increasing punishment of some of the accused and against the acquittal of some others.

“It can’t be said whether all the death sentences will hold. The court will check if every one of them was involved in the killings,” he said.

Aminul, one of the main lawyers for the accused, said, “The State failed to present sufficient witnesses and evidence to prove the charges against the accused. So I hope most of them will be acquitted.”