September 19 (Dhaka, Bangladesh): At approximately 1:30 PM Bangladesh time, a judge ruled that the government would begin its sedition trial of journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, possibly within fifteen days. Choudhury is the Muslim journalist who was arrested by the Bangladesh government in 2003. He was imprisoned under often deplorable conditions and tortured after angering the government and radicals by warning his country about the rise of Islamist terrorism there, urging Bangladesh to recognize Israel, and advocating interfaith understanding and religious equality. In April 2005, after seventeen months in prison, Choudhury was freed after an unrelenting battled waged by Dr. Richard Benkin, an American Jew, and with the help of Representative Mark Kirk (R-IL).
Since his release, Choudhury has continued to pursue a course that advocates moderate Islam and opposes radical Islam. Together, Choudhury and Benkin have worked to form inter-religious ties with other advocates worldwide. Choudhury has also resumed publication of his paper, Weekly Blitz (Dhaka), which also champions the same causes. This summer, radicals set off explosives outside the office of Blitz, and they left a bomb in the paper’s press room that did not detonate.
Over the past several weeks, Choudhury was optimistic that the government would drop the charges, which Bangladesh officials have admitted on many occasions to be false. The presiding judge, a member of the radical Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) party, ruled that his trial for sedition-a capital offense-is to proceed immediately. The JMB is a member of the current ruling coalition and signs point to significant Islamist gains in the upcoming elections in January 2007.
For further information, contact Dr. Richard Benkin at 847-506-0881 (US).
SPME Editor’s Note: Dr. Richard Benkin is an independent scholar in Chicago and long-time contributing member of SPME