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Courageous journalist Salah Choudhury may face death sentence

10/11/2006

Those who have been with MidEastWeb for a while know the case of Salahuddin Shoaib Choudhury only too well. Salah is the Bangladesh journalist who was one of the first to warn about the rise of Islamist radicalism in Bangladesh, explaining how it was carefully incubated in Madrassahs and encouraged by corrupt authorities. The world was surprised when bombs began going off all over Dhakka some time later, but Salah was not surprised at all.

Speaking out against radical Islamism and advocating dialogue and diplomatic relations with Israel are apparently "crimes" punishable by death in Bangladesh. Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is on trial for sedition, a capital offence, because of those stands. His trial begins October 12. Believe it or not, the story is even worse than that.

When the US pressed Bangladesh to recognize Israel, Salah supported the move through his newspapers. He established contact with an Israeli dialogue group, IFLAC, and attempted to come to Israel to talk about encouraging dialogue through the media. He was arrested at the airport in November, 2003 as he was about to board a flight for Israel. He began living a Kafkaeseque nightmare that has continued for three years. Salah wrote several letters from jail describing the conditions and his failing health. He was charged with sedition, and with a passport offence for attempted travel to Israel. The Arab world press generated outrageous rumors insisting that Salah was an agent of the Israeli Mossad intelligence organization. Pressure from US officials and the House of Rrepresentatives ultimately obtained his release on bail after he had served much longer jail time than the passport offence penalty would have required.

Salah was convinced that the sedition charges would be dropped, but that was not to be. The case has dragged on and on as the government sought to fabricate a case for sedition. The office of his newspaper was recently bombed and Salah was badly beaten by a mob. It seems that getting beaten up and having your office trashed is also against the law in Bangladesh. Salah now faces an addition "trial" for that "offence." This is how it happened, as Salah relates:

I was assaulted by a mob led by BNP's Cultural Wing leader Helal Khan and Babul Ahmed on 5th of October. Weekly Blitz Managing Editor M. A. Ahsan was also seriously injured, which resulted in suspension of the publication of Weekly Blitz for this week.

...Mr. Ahsan and I immediately rushed to the Shahbagh Police Station and met the officer-in-charge, Rezaul Karim, to lodge a complaint against the attackers and ask that they send police forces to our office to guard our properties. However, the police officer, (who reportedly received TK. 200,000 as a bribe from the attackers) reluctantly asked us to go back to homes, take a shower and meet him after several hours...

The attackers took unlawful possession of our office and looted a number of computers, printers and other valuables from the office. Earlier, when they attacked me, Babul Ahmed shouted, "He is an agent of Jews, kill him". They snatched my mobile phone, took TK. 42,000 cash from my pocket and forcibly took away the key of the vault of the office and looted TK 350,000 cash. It may be mentioned here that police protection was mysteriously withdrawn from our office four days before the attack. Meanwhile, more surprisingly, the government has also withdrawn police protection from my residebce, which has definitely put my entire family in to a tremendous horror.

Now, supposedly being given legal protection by the police, we lodged a formal case with the Court of Metropolitan Magistrate on Sunday, 8th of October. The Metropolitan magistrate Mizanur Rahman sent the case to criminal Investigation Department (CID) for investigation and necessary actions. But, the influential people (the attackers) belonging to the ruling party are now trying to press CID to send the matter to cold storage.

Hearing that we lodged the complaint, the attackers, under the direct patronage of the officer-in-charge of Shahbagh Police Station, lodged a false complaint with the police station in the evening of 8th October, where Rezaul Karim (the OC) instructed his fellow officers to issue warrant of arrest against us. On the following day (9th of October) another false complaint was filed by the attackers with the Court of Metropolitan Magistrate, which the court sent to Shahbagh Police Station for investigation and action.

The court also accepted the petition of the attackers and instructed the police to raid my office and residence. This incident forced me to go into hiding on the dark hours of 9th October, as I was told by some journalists that the officer in charge was ready to arrest me, assault me in custody and kill me. The officer in charge is continuously conspiring to do everything to 'give me a proper lesson'. The attackers also held a press conference in Dhaka on 10th of October, where attacker Babul Ahmed said, "Shoaib is an agent of Israel and Jews".

I appeared before the Court of Metropolitan Magistrate Mr. Shafiq Anwar on the 11th of October 2006 through my lawyer Advocate Samarendra Nath Goswami for bail. The magistrate in the bail order wrote, "the counsel appearing for the state (that is a police officer) strongly opposed the bail petition. But, the allegation is confusing. So, the bail is granted"....They want to harrass us and want to see the complete death of Weekly Blitz, which is the most outspoken newspaper in Bangladesh.

If we do not find a way to help him, Salah may be convicted of treason and executed, or killed by the mob. In the best case, his life and health would be ruined by a long jail sentence and a slanderous and violent campaign.


Please write or phone elected representatives, Bangladesh government officials and human rights groups. Frankly, letters from Israel to Bangladesh authorities may harm his case.

Letters to Bangladesh authorities should be polite and not abusive and should emphasize the harm that this case is doing to the good image of Bangladesh in your country and the need to pursue justice.

Sample letter (with additional contact information in the addresses)


Ms. Khaleda Zia,
Prime Minister,
Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh,
PM's Office,
Old Sangshad Bhaban,
Tejgaon,
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Fax: 880-2-8113244

Mr. Md. Lutfozzaman Babar,
State Minister,
Ministry of Home Affairs,
Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh,
Bangladesh Secretariat,
Topkhana Road,
Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh
Fax: 880-2-7171611

Ambassador Shamsher M. Chowdhury
Embassy of Bangladesh
3510 International Drive NW
Washington, DC 20008
Telephone : (202) - 244 - 0183.
Emergency number during evening hours: 202-244-4727
Fax: (202) - 244 - 7830/2771
Email: bdootwash@bangladoot.org


Your excellencies,
I am gravely distressed to learn of the trial of award winning journalist Salahuddin Shoaib Choudhury for sedition and other false charges. Mr. Choudhury has done nothing more than pursue his job as a journalist and his duty as a citizen. In addition to legal procedings, he has been beaten and robbed and denied police protection. I request your urgent intervention to stop this nightmare travesty of justice, which is ruining the image of Bangladesh around the world.

Additional contact information for Bangladesh officials:
Bangladesh Consulate, New York, Fax: 212-682-9211 Email: contaxt@bdcgny.org

Sheikh Mohammed Belal, Counsellor-1 (Pol.), Embassy of Bangladesh, Washington DC.
Tel: 202-244-4616 (W) 718-938-1271 (cell)

Letters to elected officials in your country and human rights groups should explain the case and ask for action to protect Mr. Choudhury.

Sample letter:

Dear XXX,
This is to request your urgent intervention to save the life of award-winning Bangladesh journalist Salahuddin Shoaib Chourhury. He has lived a three year nightmare of jailings, and beatings since he tried to travel to Israel in November 2003, and is now being tried for sedition and other false charges that are capital offences because of his outspoken stands against Islamist extremism.

His case has been the subject of editorials in the New York Times and Wall Street journal. A previous appeal by the US Congress helped bring him a reprieve, but the Bangladesh government has continued to prosecute his case. Without your help, Salahuddin Shoaib Choudhury may die.

US officials

US Embassy in Dhakka, Bangladesh - dhaka@pd.state.gov

US Senators: Go to www.senate.gov
Click on "find your senators" in the top right corner.

US Congresspersons: Go to www.house.gov
Enter your zip code near the top in "find your representative"

Human rights groups
Amnesty International
http://web.amnesty.org/contacts/app.nsf/contact+us?readform&language=eng&presence=international+secretariat

Human Rights Watch:
350 Fifth Avenue, 34th floor New York, NY 10118-3299 USA Tel: 1-(212) 290-4700,
Fax: 1-(212) 736-1300 hrwnyc@hrw.org
OR
1630 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Suite 500 Washington, DC 20009 USA Tel:1-(202) 612-4321, Fax:1-(202) 612-4333 hrwdc@hrw.org

PLEASE FORWARD THIS MESSAGE TO FREINDS AND ACQUAINTANCES AROUND THE WORLD AND ASK THEM TO ACT

Ami Isseroff

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000526.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 9 comments

You know, there is absolutely no effective way to pressure a government into not acting like a hoard of retards. Even if another government such as the US were to treaten sanctions for human rights violations (btw I always laugh about that one...the US being a huge human rights violator themselves) it would only hurt the citizens of the nation in question as their government would most likely compensate for losses by stealing from their people, such as Saddam did in Iraq. No, the only solution for a retard government is to empower the people and incite them to revolt, this was a common policy durring Regan's administration , of course he usually empowered war lords rather than freedom loving people. Though in this case, the majority of people in Bangladesh may agree with their government's actions. And their is no quick cure for indoctination, outside of tossing a thermo on their heads. The situation looks a bit grim for Mr. Choudhury.

Posted by OMFG @ 10/17/2006 10:42 PM CST

Hey Ami, how do you feel about the extremism of Iran versus the extremism of Saudi Arabia? And why is it that the United States and Israel pander to the Saudi's, when they are the most religously extreme nation in the region?

Posted by OMFG @ 10/20/2006 01:58 AM CST

OMFG,
The sarcastic answer to your question, is that Saudi Arabia are our FRIENDS (LOL THEY PROVIDE OIL AND SUBMIT TO OUR COMMANDS, PASSIVE FREINDS).
IRAN DECIDES TO FIGHT THE UNITED STATES, WHICH IS ALSO EXTREMEMLY STUPID. There is no real answer here based on what is right and wrong, it is based on what each country wants for itself. BUT, AMI WILL NEVER ADMIT TO THIS.

Posted by john @ 10/20/2006 03:44 PM CST

LMAO Friends...The Suadis like Pakistan only find it more beneficial to them economically as well as militarily to do the bidding of the United States. We have many "friends" in the middle east that fit the same description. Which is why Amhadjeea.whats.his.name and the Syrians call their neighbors infidels. They are right, these nations stand for nothing, they are worms licking the boots of their master for a few pence. Friends that are bought and paid for are always looking for the next highest bidder. Freinds for sell are enemies who know your weaknesses and when the money runs dry will cut your achiles. We should not have a military presence in these nations nor should we allow them to be privy to our domestic or foreign policy making. They should be treated as hostile business partners and no more. Our intrusian into the region has made us a target. Israel may enjoy slighty better protection with our presence, but the facts remains the same.

1.All nations will eventually obtain nuclear weapons, we cannot prevent this.

2.Prevention of global extermination can only be achived through diplomatic means, military action will only escalate into the use of more destructive weaponry as well as result in the abandonment of adherance to international law, such as we see transpiring in the US.

The US must adopt a foreign policy based on compromise rather than testosterone. We can be an understanding nation and still be strong. Currently we don not allow the opprotunity to be understanding, as our first response is military action or abidding by old diplomatic policies that resulted from the actions of long dead regimes (Iran, American embassy hostage crisis.). Only when we have exhausted all other options should we implement a military response. North Korea is leaning in the direction of the former.

Israel on the other hand is in a situation that is without much hope for a resolution. If they cannot reach a compromise with their neighbors they will eventually cease to exist or become tyrants who will commit atrocities the likes of Hitler's Germany in a bid to defend their existance and their right to a resonable quality of living level. The US must let this scenario resolve itself instead of involving ourselves in the ever mounting path to war in the middle east. Ultimately our involvement will not sway the outcome unless we resorted to the anihilation of over half the region, a task that we are not capable of.

Posted by OMFG @ 10/20/2006 07:11 PM CST

Just had a few questions that should be asked.

1. Would the US have any intrest in the middle east if there were no oil there?

2. Would the US have any intrest in Israel if there were no oil in the middle east?

3. If your answer to number 2 is no, is it in the best intrest of the United States that Israel co-exists peacfully with it's neighbors?

4. If the United States were to switch to an alternative fuel source and help promote alternative fuels in other countries, would OPEC become bank-rupt?

5. The US could have used the funds spent on the IRAQ war for alternate fuel devlopement and implementation, why did they choose to squander these funds in an unprofitable and futile venture like removing Saddam? The bank ruptcy of OPEC by ensurring oli is obsolete would end any sway that the oil producing nations has over other nations (Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, sadly Venezuela). Almost all of the so called enemies of the United States and Israel are Oil producers, the US could cripple them all by draining their bank through developement and implementation of alternate, non-petro derivative fuels. This method worked well in the USSR by training and supporting Al-Quida, who bled the Russians of not only blood but their national treasury. We also put other econmic pressures that help tip the scale and lead to the colapse. Though there are negative side-effects of the USSR colapse (proliferation of enriched uranium from rouge states and unattended facilities) The positives have out-weighed the negatives. Could it be that our government is selling us out to whomever lines their pockets with the most peices of silver? We have no reason to continue buying oil from our enemies. It is endangering our existance.

6. What do we do about it?

Posted by OMFG @ 10/20/2006 10:29 PM CST

To OMFG

"1.All nations will eventually obtain nuclear weapons, we cannot prevent this."

True, unless we nuke them, lol. Or, what I think, is to completely eradicate nuclear weapons slowly with negotiations.

"2.Prevention of global extermination can only be achived through diplomatic means, military action will only escalate into the use of more destructive weaponry as well as result in the abandonment of adherance to international law, such as we see transpiring in the US."

110% AGREED!!!

"1. Would the US have any intrest in the middle east if there were no oil there?"

HELL NO.

"2. Would the US have any intrest in Israel if there were no oil in the middle east?"

HELL NO AGAIN.

"3. If your answer to number 2 is no, is it in the best intrest of the United States that Israel co-exists peacfully with it's neighbors?"

YES

"4. If the United States were to switch to an alternative fuel source and help promote alternative fuels in other countries, would OPEC become bank-rupt?"

MAYBE NOT FOR A LONG TIME, BUT EVENTUALLY YES.

"5. The US could have used the funds spent on the IRAQ war for alternate fuel devlopement and implementation, why did they choose to squander these funds in an unprofitable and futile venture like removing Saddam? "

I HATE TO BE BLUNT, BUT IT IS BECAUSE THEY ARE SELFISH, AND STUPID.

"6. What do we do about it?"

WELL, WE CAN FIND OUT WHERE WE COME FROM, LOL. IN OTHER WORDS, IF THERE IS NOT ABSOLUTE AUTHORITY ON MORALITY, THEN WHERE IS THE MOTIVE FOR THESE SELFISH POLITICIANS TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT. PEOPLE WILL CONTINUE TO SERVE THEIR BEST INTERESTS IF THERE IS NOT OTHER REASON TO BE NONSELFISH.

Posted by john @ 10/21/2006 03:51 PM CST

"True, unless we nuke them, lol. Or, what I think, is to completely eradicate nuclear weapons slowly with negotiations"

The reason this did not happen with the United States and Russia even though we had an agreement to do just that was the knowledge of nuclear grade weaponry is still known. We cannot erase this from the minds of all humans and thus it will continue to exist. We cannot be naive and trust that another nuclear nation will abide by an agreement even with inspections. For inspections to be sucessfull the inspectors must be aware of every nuclear weapons location, this can be obscured with relative ease. Once mankind conceived the first weapon we entered a new era, and the clock cannot be turned back. Our only course of action, our only hope is M.A.D.. It is sad that the only security we have in this world relys on mutual fear of anihilation. It is also an unavoidable reality.

Posted by OMFG @ 10/21/2006 05:07 PM CST

OMFG,
Also, one more point, to try to resolve this problem without using morals, can be done, but ALL RELIGIOUS PEOPLE WOULD HAVE TO DROP THEIR BULLLSHIT. That is to let go of the "hocus pocus" that you had mentioned, and to serve the interests of all humanity.

Posted by john @ 10/21/2006 05:12 PM CST

OMFG

You are correct, I thought about it a little longer.

"For inspections to be sucessfull the inspectors must be aware of every nuclear weapons location, this can be obscured with relative ease."

AGREED.

Posted by john @ 10/21/2006 05:17 PM CST


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