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NATIONAL (MARCH 12, 2007) Senate motion to free pro-Israeli Muslim
Australian Senate has unanimously passed a motion urging the
Bangladeshi Government to “ensure a fair trial” for Muslim journalist
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, who is facing the death penalty for
advocating diplomatic ties with Israel.
Senator Ursula Stephens,
from the Labor Party, moved the motion after being contacted by Miriam
Jones, an executive member of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.
motion, which will be sent to Dhaka, called on the Bangladeshi
Government to ensure a fair trial for Choudhury and “investigate those
responsible for his harassment and intimidation because of his call for
Senator Stephens told the AJN last week:
“In a world where the influence of religious extremism serves to divide
ordinary citizens, there must always be people like Shoaib Choudhury,
who are brave enough to speak out about that influence and what its
consequences on society will be.
“Choudhury’s call for
inter-faith tolerance has resonance far beyond the country of
Bangladesh. It is a message that is as relevant today in Australia as
it is in many European countries, Africa, the Middle East and India.”
41, the editor and publisher of English-language newspaper The Weekly
Blitz, was arrested in November 2003 as he tried to board a plane to
Israel, which has no diplomatic ties with Bangladesh, the world’s third
most populous Muslim country.
He was tried for sedition,
blasphemy and treason. He was released on bail in April 2005 and few
months later, a judge ordered that the case continue on the basis that
Choudhury had “spoiled” the “image of Bangladesh” and “hurt the
sentiments of Muslims” by his positive attitude to Jews and Christians.
who played a key role in gaining the support of the Australian
Government, said she was “thrilled that something was being done”.
one week until the trial resumes, Jones urged “the Australian Jewish
community to show a unified voice in helping free Choudhury”.
is crucial. His life is on the line because he supports Israel, so what
right do we then have on turning our backs on him,” she said.
see this man as the key in the long-term war on fighting terrorism
because if he is sentenced to death, it’s a win for Islamic fascism.
It’s very important that we don’t allow that to happen.”
Council of Australian Jewry president Grahame Leonard, who has been in
contact with Foreign Minister Alexander Downer over the issue, said he
was pleased the motion was passed.
“We need to show solidarity
and encourage the more moderate people in the Muslim world, of which
there are many, to speak up,” Leonard said.
founded as a secular state in 1971 and currently 83 per cent of the
population is Muslim. It has been alleged that Islamic extremism is
rising, with several fundamentalist groups wanting to replace the
secular system with strict Islamic shari’a law.