Mr.Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, as a Bangladeshi journalist and a Muslim modernist, has been for years, fighting for international dialogue and peace with Israel and with the Christian world. Mr.Choudury is now on the run and faces his greastest challenge, the fight for his own life. If a Bangladeshi court finds Mr.Choudhury guilty of blasphemy against Islam, as well as sedition, treason and espionage against the Bangladeshi state, he will face the death sentence.
This is a man who as a child, was told by his father not to believe the vitriolic anti-Semitic rantings they heard at their local Mosque, and as a man at the age of 38, began a private effort by publishing his own newspaper [the Weekly Blitz] in 2003, that dared to print positive Israel related stories for his local readership. That effort landed the dissident journalist in prison for 16 months until international pressure secured his release. I include a snippet from an article by The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board member, Bret Stephens, about Mr.Choudury. The whole article for WSJ subscribers can be found here. A website dedicated to this brave man can be found here.
“Few stories better illustrate the Islamist tinderbox that Bangladesh has become than Mr. Choudhury’s. Mr. Choudhury, then 38, began publishing articles sympathetic to Israel in the Weekly Blitz while reaching out to Jewish and Israeli writers he encountered on the Web. That led to the invitation by the Hebrew Writers’ Association, and to Mr. Choudhury’s only crime: By attempting to travel to Israel in November 2003, he violated the Passport Act, which forbids citizens from visiting countries (such as Israel and Taiwan) with which Bangladesh does not maintain diplomatic relations. Violations of the Passport Act are usually punishable by a fine of $8. But that wasn’t the sentence meted to Mr. Choudhury. Following his arrest he was taken into police custody and, as he tells it, blindfolded, beaten and interrogated almost incessantly for 10 days in an attempt to extract a confession that he was spying for Israel. He refused to offer one. He spent the next 16 months in solitary confinement in a Dhaka jail, where he was denied medical treatment for his glaucoma.
By then, Mr Choudhury’s case had come to the attention of Congressman Mark Kirk (R., Ill), who intervened with Bangladesh’s ambassador to the U.S. to secure Mr. Choudhury’s release on bail, though the charges were never formally dropped. Help also came from Richard Benkin, a Chicago-area activist who has taken up Mr. Choudhury’s cause, and the American Jewish Committee, which invited Mr. Choudhury to the U.S. in May to receive its Moral Courage Award. But Mr. Choudhury says he decided to forgo the trip after a government minister warned him, “If you go, it will not be good for you.”
In July, the offices of the Weekly Blitz were bombed by Islamic militants. In September, a judge with Islamist ties ordered the case continued, despite the government’s reluctance to prosecute, on the grounds that Mr. Choudhury had hurt the sentiments of Muslims by praising Christians and Jews and spoiling the image of Bangladesh world-wide. Last week, the police detail that had been posted to the Blitz’s offices since the July bombing mysteriously vanished. The next day the offices were ransacked and Mr. Choudhury was badly beaten by a mob of 40 or so people. Over the weekend he lodged a formal complaint with the police, who responded by issuing an arrest warrant for him. Now he’s on the run, fearing torture or worse if he’s taken into custody.”
Another contact at the embassy whose cell number is available online is:Sheikh Mohammed Belal, Counsellor-1 (Pol.), Embassy of Bangladesh, Washington DC.Tel: 202-244-4616 (W) 718-938-1271 (cell)
Hat Tip: TINSC