By Judi McLeod Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Memo to Mohammed Momin Ullah, Metropolitan Session Judge, Dhaka, Bangladesh: "We know. Canada Free Press (CFP) knows that the charges brought up against Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury by the previous Islamist alliance government in Bangladesh, come up in your court, tomorrow."
And publications with much more international influence than CFP know that a lone journalist who forecast the rise of radical Islam in Bangladesh will stand in your court just when world attention is focused on other matters.
Choudhury, who stands charged with treason, sedition and blasphemy, has friends in the United States of America, including Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Professor Richard Benkin, who were promised by then-Bangladeshi Ambassador to Washington Shamsher M. Chowdhury that self-described "Muslim Zionist" Shoaib Choudhury would have all charges dropped against him.
Courageous Choudhury has Canadian friends in his corner, notably including the Honourable Irwin Cotler (MP Mount Royal), a world-renowned humanitarian and civil-rights scholar, and one of the best and brightest legal minds in the English-speaking world, who now stands as Choudhury's counsel.
With American attention on disgraced Eliot Spitzer and the fierce fight between Democrat presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Choudhury faces a trial whose penalties include only execution or imprisonment.
These are the words on the official document demanding Choudhury's March 12th court appearance:
"The State Prosecution has brought allegation (s) against you, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury stating that, being the editor and owner of Blitz newspaper, you sent an article titled, `Hello Tel Aviv' to USA Today newspaper published from Washington. Furthermore, in 2003, while attempting to travel to Israel to attend a conference titled `Education towards Culture of Peace', organized between 1st December to 3rd December 2003, you appeared at the Zia International Airport on the 29th November 2003 and the Immigration police arrested you and found the copy of the speech you prepared to deliver in the conference. In that speech, you have made offensive comments on (the) Muslim world, Islam and Muslims in Bangladesh and commented about (the) existence of al Qaeda and other Islamist militant groups, by which you have tarnished the image of Bangladesh in the outside world. Furthermore, you have made (a) conspiracy of spreading anti-state news through that speech and you by sending that speech to (the) outside world, you have played (an) offensive role to Bangladesh's security, public discipline and adverse
role towards Bangladesh's relations with the outside world. In you (sic) report, you have mentioned about guerilla training in the
Bangladeshi madrassas, by which you have influenced the religious sentiments and made imaginary stories abroad about jihadist training in favor of Laden (sic), Arafat and Saddam, by which you have put Bangladesh's foreign relations to threat and through this you have caused offense under Penal Code section 505 (A), 295 (A) and 120 (B).
"The allegations were read before the accused and he claimed to be innocent (not guilty) and prayed for justice."
In his response to Metropolitan Session Judge Md. Momin Ullah, Choudhury wrote, "it is well known to the international community and even to the Bangladeshi government that there are guerilla trainings in various Madrassas in the country.
"The previous government captured a few hundred such elements from various Madrassas belonging to an Islamist terrorist group named JMB. The kingpins of this group were accorded the death penalty by Bangladeshi courts and were subsequently hanged.
"But I am facing the charges of forecasting the existence of such elements in Bangladeshi Madrassas. Why?
"I have never sent any article titled `Hello Tel Aviv', nor was it ever printed in any US or international newspaper. This is a bogus and imaginary allegation brought against me by the government. The prosecution does not have any evidence of such allegation."
Choudhury asks "How many more years will I have to suffer from these false and ridiculous charges?
"I am continuing to spend money and energy in this case since 2003. Is it justice to let an innocent journalist suffer for years, just because he forecasted the rise of radical Islam and confronted it?"
Choudhury, who was beaten, imprisoned, denied medication for glaucoma, forbidden to attend his mother's funeral, had his office bombed and his children followed to school, has spent hundreds of hours preparing forand attending court sessions which the government promised to drop.
"People keep asking me what is it that the Bangladeshi government wants," says Choudhury.
"They want to appease the Islamists by continuing the case and even by convicting me. Many of the top policymakers of the governments are angry with me because I am a Zionist and I continue to defend Jews and Christians as well as combating radical Islam. They are also angry with me because I demand relations between Israel and Muslim nations."
Choudhury fully understands the possibilities of a horrific fate tomorrow before the Bangladeshi court with international attention
"Please pray for me on March 12," he asked friends living in the free world on the eve of his court appearance.
But even though Bangladeshi Islamists have continued the harassment of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury at will, they at least cannot count on the privilege of finishing the job off under cover of darkness.
CFP and others, who know, await the outcome.
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