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In defence of an imprisoned journalist!

Added: (Sun Apr 01 2018)

Pressbox (Press Release) - Syed Ulfat Ahmed

The US President Donald Trump and his administration are looking for 'decent people', who confronts radical Islamic terrorism and militancy. As we know, radical Islam and militancy are causing immense sufferings to the peace-loving people, be it Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al Shabab in the African continent, Abu Saiyyaf in the Philippines, Talibans and Mujahidins in Afghanistan, Joish-e-Islam in Syria, Hamas in Ghaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, AQIS in India and Islamic State and Al Qaeds in the entire world. A large number of Muslim nations including Saudi Arabia also are fighting jihad and radical Islamic terrorism, while countries like Iran are accused of harbouring radical Islam.

One of the major factors behind the rise of radical Islam is antisemitism. Most of the nations, which currently are breeding grounds of radical Islam are notoriously antisemitic. Bangladesh unfortunately is amongst those rogue nations where antisemitism and holocaust denial get state patronization. After Iran, Bangladesh is another country that officially considers Israel as an 'enemy nation'. Even Judaism is considered here as 'enemy's religion'! Aren't these unacceptable, unjustified and even equivalent to crime against humanity? Certainly!

But one man - just one extremely courageous individual, a journalist and brave heart editor, back in 2002 said, 'ENOUGH' to such culture of religious hatred and antisemitism -in Bangladesh. His name is Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, a maverick - a hero - a man of rarest virtue.

A country under autocratic rule!

On March 23, 2018, a German-based thinktanks, Bertelsmann Stiftung in its report on the quality of democracy, governance and market economy said, Bangladesh is among five countries that no longer meet the minimum standards for a democracy and are now under autocratic rule.

The sordid case of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury:

Multi-award winning anti militancy journalist and newspaper editor, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury was arrested on 29th November, 2003, from the Dhaka International Airport in Bangladesh on his way to Tel Aviv for attending an international peace conference organized by the Hebrew Writers' Association. Mr. Choudhury was amongst the list of key speakers in the conference.

As Bangladesh does not recognize Israel and considers it as an enemy country, authorities in Bangladesh brought sedition, treason and blasphemy charges against Shoaib Choudhury by accusing him as an agent of Mossad.

Since 2002, Mr. Choudhury has been confronting religious extremism and radical Islam; denouncing antisemitism and holocaust denials; promoting interfaith harmony; and defending the Jewish State.

In 2005, at the intervention of US Congressman Mark Steven Kirk and rights activist Dr. Richard L Benkin, Shoaib Choudhury was released from the prison on bail.

In 2007, the United States Congress passed a bipartisan House Resolution HR-64/2007 by 406 votes in defence of Mr. Choudhury and called upon Bangladesh authorities to immediately drop the false charges brought against him. But, Bangladesh didn't pay any heed to it.

In 2012 (November 8th), Shoaib Choudhury was rearrested and sent to prison at the influence of Maj Gen (Retired) Tarique Ahmed Siddique, Security Advisor to Bangladeshi Prime Minister, for Mr. Choudhury's 'crime' of exposing corruption of a Bangladeshi company named Prochchaya Limited and UK company named Zumana Investment & Holdings, owned by the wife and daughter of Gen Siddique. It may be mentioned here that Maj Gen (Retired) Tarique Ahmed Siddique is the paternal uncle of British Labour Party's lawmaker Ms. Tulip Siddiq.

As the Security Advisor exerted his influence on the court, the Metropolitan Session Judge in Dhaka convicted Shoaib Choudhury in treason and blasphemy charges (in the case brought in 2003) and handed down seven year's rigorous imprisonment. Later in 2015, the Security Advisor also got Mr. Choudhury convicted in a false case lodged by Prochchaya Limited.

Although Mr. Choudhury's appeal against both the conviction are still pending, his conviction period ended on November 2, 2017. But, the Security Advisor, by exerting influence, has been keeping this journalist in prison this creating undue obstructions.

There is no rule of law, freedom of judiciary, freedom of expression and freedom of press in today's Bangladesh. Intimidation of journalists and newspaper editors are very common and frequent.

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is just one man languishing in Bangladesh prison for confronting radical Islam; denouncing antisemitism and holocaust denial; defending Israel; and advocating interfaith harmony.

Should he remain in prison indefinitely and face terrible intimidation in the hands of an antisemitic and autocratic regime?

The author is a freelance columnist. He can be reached at: sunpowerahmed@gmail.com

Submitted by:Syed Ulfat Ahmed
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