|Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury. Picture: durdesh.net|
"Press in Bangladesh enjoys full and unhindered freedom without any kind of censorship" - so the official homepage of the Bangladesh Embassy in Germany.
The persecution case of the Bangladeshi chief editor of the BLITZ-weekly and the vernacular weekly JAMJAMAT Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury tells another story.
Choudhury is a Muslim journalist, publisher, author and peace activist, a persistent and outspoken opponent of the radical Islamists and advocate of human and religious rights. He is the only Muslim journalist facing sedition, treason and blasphemy charges for confronting culture of jihad and religious hatred as well as promoting interfaith understanding and establishment of relations between Israel and the Muslim nations. In 2003 Choudhury was named as head of the Bangladeshi branch of the International Forum for Literature and Culture for Peace (IFLAC), which links writers who campaign for peace.
On November 29, 2003 he was arrested on his way to Tel Aviv for attending a writer's conference. The secret services claimed that the documents found in his briefcase, especially the text of his speech and reports about the human rights situation in Bangladesh, were evidence of spying on behalf of Israel. A few hours after his arrest, police seized all the computer equipment, including printers and CD-ROMs, at the offices of his magazine and at his home.
Shoaib Choudhury was detained for 17 month, tortured and denied medical treatment. His family was attacked, his newspaper suspended, his home and office ransacked, and the government conducted a smear campaign against him. Mobs have been allowed to attack him and bomb his newspaper with impunity.
Choudhury was charged with treason, sedition and blasphemy, charges which carry a possible death sentence. International human rights activist Dr. Richard L. Benkin, in the U.S., and Professor Irwin Cotler MP are working tirelessly for Shoaib Choudhury's release, and found a friend in Congressman Mark Kirk. They had intense meetings with the Bangladeshi ambassador in the U.S., Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, during which the ambassador admitted the charges against Shoaib were false. As a result of these meetings Bangladesh released Shoaib Choudhury and promised to drop all charges against him.
Shoaib was released, but the Bangladeshi government reneged on its promise and upheld its false charges against him. In July 2007 the Public Prosecutor stated his willingness to proceed with this scurrilous action against Shoaib. In December 2007 the Information Advisor to the interim government, Moinul Hussain, sent a messenger, Nasir Sikder, to the Weekly office. Sikder, who identified himself as Hussain's messenger, threatened Shoaib Choudhury with cancellation of the publication's license and harassing Blitz editor, Choudhury, through the government's Task Force.
In March 2007 the US Congress has passed a resolution [HR 64] demanding immediate dropping of the false charge, and the U.S. Congress has extended bipartisan support to Mr. Choudhury. The European Parliament also issued a Resolution in support of Mr. Choudhury.
Please send appeals:
- Protesting the charges against journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury and calling for them to be dropped, in accordance with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
- Expressing your concern for the safety of Choudhury and requesting that he be provided with immediate and effective police protection.
Prof. Dr. Iajuddin Ahmed
Honorable President and Chief of the Caretaker Government
People's Republic of Bangladesh
Cc: Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed
Chief Advisor, Caretaker Government
People's Republic of Bangladesh
Chief Advisor's Office
Old Sangshad Bhaban
Fax: 880-2-811 3243 & 880-2-811-1490
Forward these appeals to the Bangladesh High Commission in your country too!