Rights group: Trials of Bangladesh guards unfair

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DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — An international rights group said Wednesday it has found serious human rights abuses in the mass trials of Bangladesh paramilitary border guards accused of participating in a 2009 mutiny, including the deaths of at least 47 suspects from maltreatment in detention.

Human Rights Watch said in a report that the violations included widespread beatings and electric shocks. About 3,000 border guards are currently on trial in the mutiny, in which 74 people including 57 military commanders died.

The New York-based group's Asia director, Brad Adams, called the trial process "fundamentally flawed" and said suspects have been interrogated in secret locations by security agencies.

"The government must close all unofficial and secret places of detention," he said.

Home Minister Shahara Khatun has denied all allegations of human rights violations during the trials.

M. Sohail, spokesman for the elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion, rejected the accusations and called the report baseless.

"This is not acceptable. They are biased," Sohail said. "Through this report, it (Human Rights Watch) has unveiled its notorious face."

The Feb. 25-26, 2009, mutiny occurred two months after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took office. The influential military was unhappy over the response of the government, which did not allow troops to attack the border guards' headquarters in Dhaka where military commanders were killed.

Hasina initially offered an amnesty to the mutineers to quell the revolt but later withdrew the offer when dozens of bodies were found in sewers and in mass graves.