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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Bangladesh Journalist faces death for anti-Islamist activities

Salahuddin Shoaib Choudury is on trial for setition - a charge that faces the death penalty. The procedure began when he tried to visit Israel in connection with a peace dialogue meeting and has dragged on for years.

We have been following this story with anxiety for several years. The strategy of the Bangladesh authorities seems to be to hold a trial by attrition and to drag the procedings out for as long as possible. Mr. Choudhury for his part, has not shown all the discretion that might be appropriate in these circumstances, and has been unduly optimistic about his case.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 28, 2007

CONTACT: Richard L. Benkin, Ph.D.; +1-847-722-7917;;

Persecuted Journalist faces Set Back in Sedition Trial

Actions by Bangladeshi Court Belies Government Assurances

Dhaka, Bangladesh—Crusading Muslim journalist, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, suffered a major setback in the government case against him for alleged “sedition, treason, and blasphemy.” The current government of Bangladesh had recently given explicit assurances to several US and other officials that the admittedly false charges would be dropped and done so “within the framework of Bangladeshi laws.”

We have learned that the procedure would have three successive court dates at which government witnesses failed to show, forcing the charges to be dropped. That happened on January 22 and was supposed to happen again on February 28.

Instead, two government witnesses did show and the radical-affiliated judge signed an order forcing the trial to continue and accusing Choudhury of being a “threat to the security of Bangladesh.”

Choudhury has faced continued persecution since 2003 for writing articles exposing the rise of Islamist radicals, calling for relations with Israel, and advocating religious equality. He has been beaten, tortured and imprisoned for his efforts, and mobs have been allowed to attack him and bomb his newspaper with impunity. Today’s charge specifically mentions his journalistic activities.

Recently, resolutions condemning Choudhury’s persecution have been passed in the European and Australian Parliaments. A similar resolution in the US Congress recently passed the powerful House Committee on Foreign Affairs without opposition and with open support by the US State Department.

Choudhury had been encouraged by recent government promises and the outpouring of international support; but today’s events call into question the veracity of those promises.

For further information, a translated text of the order, or interviews with Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, contact Richard Benkin at the telephone or email above.

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