January 22, 2007 looms very near on the New Year's calendar. That's the day Bangladesh native, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is scheduled to go on trial for his life. The pro-Israel, moderate Muslim journalist stands steadfast and alone.
Choudhury is the editor and publisher of The Weekly Blitz, an English-language newspaper in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.
In 2003, the future looked bright for the 41-year-old, truth-seeking journalist. He was proudly on his way to address the Hebrew Writers Union, having gained the attention of the outside world by a series of articles promoting peace with Israel, condemnation of Muslim extremism and encouragement of interfaith cooperation.
Dreams turned to ashes when he got no further than Zia International Airport in Dhaka. The speech, advocating understanding between Muslim and Jews of which he was so proud, was never to be heard. Arrested upon his arrival at the airport, his passport was confiscated, his home and offices were raided, his money and personal effects stolen, and his computers seized.
There was no protest outside the prison where he was to linger in jail for some 17 months. During the long months of his imprisonment, his glaucoma went untreated and he was sometimes locked up with the insane, whose blood-curdling screams kept him awake through long nights.
In prison, the journalist who once had so much to look forward to, was tortured.
Going to Israel with pro-Israel opinions is a crime in Bangladesh.
All of this is taking place against a backdrop of a Bangladesh in the midst of anarchy, with extremist factions pressuring the ruling party into allowing them an increasing say in the government, and with local judges being able to exert enormous personal sway.
Worse, Bangladesh watchers are predicting that the country's January 25 elections will bring the fundamentalists even more prominence and power. It is now a very real possibility that the Islamic religious code of Sharia will become the law of the land in Bangladesh.
Here is the harsh reality for Choudhury's fate: Even if sentenced under existing Bangladeshi law, the journalist can anticipate one of only two possible options: Thirty years in prison or execution.
He is fully aware that he cannot hope for a fair trial. His only hope is to see all charges against him dropped, and soon.
And support of the outside world is absolutely critical.
Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois and Rep. Nita Lowey of New York have introduced House Resolution 1080, calling on the Bangladeshi government to drop all charges against Choudhury, to cease the harassment campaign against him, and to bring his attackers to justice.
Americans are being asked to call or e-mail their representative in Congress and to urge him or her to sign on to Resolution 1080 immediately.
"Contact both of your senators and plead with them to sponsor a complementary resolution in the Senate--now," urges Heritage Florida Jewish News. "Bangladesh depends upon some $60 million a year in U.S. aid while its rulers pose as our government's enlightened partners in the "war on terror"--make them earn their money.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
The trial of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Some long quotes on his story from Canada Free Press. I wrote both Durbin and Obama asking for a similar Senate resolution as that introduced by Kirk in the house.