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HEADLINES

BD govt shoots self in foot-again

BD govt shoots self in foot-again

Dr. Richard L. Benkin writes from USA

The Bangladeshi government is on the defensive all over the world.  To clarify, that’s not the people of Bangladesh, but the government that seems to serve them so poorly.  Critical resolutions have been passed, introduced, or are being readied in almost every major donor country and those country whose citizens are purchasing the lion’s share of Bangladeshi goods.  As Bangladeshi Foreign Minister M. Morshed Khan very publicly placed Bangladesh in the same camp as Iran and Syria with anti-American diatribes last summer, I asked how many Bangladeshi garments are purchased by those two terror-supporting Middle Eastern countries and how thankful Bangladeshi exporters are for American imports.  It is also germane to ask how much aid Bangladeshis receive from oil soaked countries like Iran, which seems to have enough to spend supporting terrorists and developing nuclear weapons.  When western donors stopped funding the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, Iran and its cohorts let the Palestinians do without—no doubt the same fate Bangladeshis can expect if their actions dry up western donations.

All of these resolutions mention the Islamist threat to Bangladeshi democracy, ongoing persecution of journalists and minorities, and corruption.  And in every instance, the only case they mention by name is the persecution of Weekly Blitz editor and publisher, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury.  The government of Bangladesh has been guilty of one miscalculation after another in this case, which has led to the flurry of resolutions and impending sanctions.  At this point, most Bangladeshi officials and embassies worldwide seem to believe that discretion is the better part of valor and are remaining silent when asked about the case; or just as likely, the government is again irrationally hoping that denial will make it all go away.

Bangladeshi officials in some countries, however, are going on the offensive in an effort to stop the locomotive that is bearing down on Bangladeshi injustice.  Their efforts last week and otherwise, unfortunately, seem to have done more to hurt their case according to sources.  The government’s ongoing program of disinformation long ago lost any credibility with most of its intended audience.  The new tactic—and the government seems to flail about from one to the other—has been to try and paint the Choudhury case as the operation of a nation of laws.  The attempt, however, only proves the opposite.

According to information received by this reporter, one official made a valiant attempt to say that Shoaib’s prosecution was for violations of the law.  Within that diatribe, however, he listed a number of civil lawsuits against Shoaib.  The first reaction was to wonder what that has to do with charges of “sedition, treason, and blasphemy.”  It did, however, hearken back to one official’s admission that the entire case was “a purely personal financial dispute.”  That government would set its entire police and judicial apparatus in motion to help an individual with “a purely personal financial dispute” and charge a journalist with sedition speaks to a sorry state indeed in the legal system.  That same official also complimented Shoaib for getting “Jewish groups” to lobby for him, suggesting they were the cause of all this to do.  Ironically, in a recent interview I was asked why Jewish groups have for the most part remained silent about the case.  The American Jewish Committee is the only Jewish group that has taken a strong and public stand on Shoaib’s behalf.  A couple others have been supportive but low key.  Reference to a mysterious “Jewish lobby” or “Jewish groups” is the final refuse of those who cannot find any way to address the substantive issues brought against them.  Finally, that official refers to “evidence” that the government has not been able to produce ever since Shoaib’s arrest more than three years ago!

Last week, the Bangladeshi courts themselves undercut any argument that suggests the Choudhury case is being conducted as any other.  If a sedition charge mandates the sort of ill-treatment meted out to Shoaib, it is difficult to explain the government’s treatment of Bangladeshis most recently charged with that offense.  The attorneys who this month went on a rampage at the Supreme Court and even desecrated the national flag face the same charge Shoaib faced (until treason and blasphemy were added by fiat this fall).  But Shoaib’s treatment was far more harsh than theirs.  For instance, Shoaib was arrested and held for months; he was released on bail only after a concerted international effort that identified the charge’s injustice.  Those recently charged were granted bail within days and without any international outrage.  At the time of Shoaib’s 2003 arrest, the government confiscated his passport—and despite promises to US officials—refused to return it even after he was freed on bail.  In May 2006, after a convoluted and intentionally long process, Shoaib was warned in no uncertain terms not to attend a Washington ceremony where he was being honored.  Yet, one of the recently charged individuals will be in Washington this month; another is in Norway.  Their passports were not confiscated nor were their freedom of movement restricted.

Despite government protests to the contrary, it is clear that Shoaib is and has been given especially harsh treatment, not at all in line with how others with the same charge under Bangladeshi law.  Foreign capitals have been forced to conclude that his treatment is due to his support for Israel and interfaith dialogue; and due to the fact that—again despite government protestations—that radical Islamists continue to call many of the shots in Bangladesh. With its denials and rationalizations wearing thin, the government would do better to work honestly with those nations who are asking their citizens to provide largesse to Bangladesh.  Only an honest confrontation of the threat to Bangladeshi law gives the government any chance of restoring its credibility worldwide.
Posted on 14 Dec 2006 by Root
 
 
 
 
 


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