Carnage At Pilkhana BDR HQ: 15 years on, justice yet to be meted out

Carnage At Pilkhana BDR HQ: 15 years on, justice yet to be meted out

Fifteen years have passed since the BDR mutiny that killed 74 people, including 57 army officials, but the victim families are yet to get final justice and the accused their due punishment, as both the cases filed over the incident have not yet been disposed of due to lengthy legal processes and courts being overburdened with cases.

The mutiny at the Pilkhana headquarters of the erstwhile Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) on February 25-26, 2009, left the nation shocked, as people stood aghast at the extent of the barbarity perpetrated at the headquarters of the paramilitary force, later renamed Border Guard Bangladesh.

On November 5, 2013, a Dhaka court handed down death sentences to 150 BDR members and two civilians, and life imprisonment to 160 others for their role and involvement in the carnage. A total of 256 people, mostly BDR soldiers, were handed jail sentences.

The court acquitted 278 others, but the prosecution later appealed against the acquittal of 69.

In January 2015, the HC started hearing the appeals of the convicts and pronounced its verdict on November 27, 2017, confirming the death penalty of 139.

It commuted the death penalty of eight convicts to life imprisonment and acquitted five others, who were sentenced to death by the trial court.

The HC upheld life imprisonment of 146 and acquitted 14 of the 160 accused, who were sentenced to life by the lower court.

A total of 248 accused out of the 278 got acquittals from the HC.

The execution of the death row convicts now depends on the hearing of appeals by the Appellate Division and its verdict.

Contacted, Law Minister Anisul Huq told on February 14 that the appeals, which have been filed against the HC verdict in the BDR carnage case, will be heard and disposed of by the Appellate Division when they serially come up in the hearing list.

Those, who have filed the appeals, may take the initiative for early hearings before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, he said, adding, "The state has nothing to do in this regard."

About the case filed under the Explosive Substances Act in connection with the same incident, the minister said the trial proceedings are going on at the lower court and will be finished when the relevant procedures are done.

Meanwhile, Aminul Islam, one of the defence lawyers in the BDR carnage case, told this newspaper that it depends on the chief justice when the Appellate Division will start hearing the appeals.

He added that the deposition of the witnesses under the Explosive Substances Act has been going on before the magistrate court concerned.

A total of 68 appeals and leave-to-appeal petitions have been filed on behalf of the convicted accused.

Of them, 35 appeals were filed by 63 condemned convicts. The rest were filed on behalf of 162 convicts who were sentenced to life, he said, adding that the state also filed 20 appeals against the acquittals of 83 by the HC.

Aminul further said that around 500 accused, who have already served jail sentences and got acquitted by the trial court and HC, could not walk out of jail as they are also accused in the Explosives Substances Act case.

Over a year will be needed to finish the trial of the case filed under the Explosive Substances Act, he said, adding that family members of the arrested have been suffering and leading very miserable lives.

A total of 256 convicts in the carnage case are behind bars beyond their jail terms as the trial of the second case filed under the Explosive Substances Act is yet to be completed.

Public Prosecutor Mosharraf Hossain Kajol said the trial court has so far recorded depositions of 271 of a total of 644 witnesses in the second case, the trial of which was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The PP hoped it would be completed this year.