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October 13, 2006

Courageous journalist Salah Choudhury may face death sentence

Filed under: AntiJihad, Asia — limewoody @ 3:14 pm

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
(FAX number is supplied by PM office of Bangladesh. We are told it is not
working)
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)
Canada – Ontario Consul: (not called an embassy):
High Commission for the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Ottowa
275 Bank Street, Suite 302, Ottowa
Ontario K2P 2L6, Canada
Telephone : (613) 236-0138, (613) 236-0139
FAX : (613) 567-3213

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 http://www.senate.gov
Click on “find your senators” in the top right corner.

US Congresspersons: Go to http://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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