A Muslim journalist facing charges of sedition for
advocating ties with Israel was recently attacked and beaten
by a crowd in Bangladesh that allegedly included leading
officials of the country's ruling party, The Jerusalem
Post has learned.
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor of the Weekly
Blitz newspaper, an English-language publication based in
the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, was working in his office on
October 5 when nearly 40 people stormed the premises.
The mob beat Choudhury, leaving him with a fractured ankle,
and looted cash that was kept in the company safe. Choudhury
was briefly hospitalized.
According to a statement appearing on the Web site of the
Weekly Blitz, the attackers were led by Helal Khan,
international affairs secretary of Jasas, and included Babul
Ahmed, Jasas's secretary-general. Jasas is the cultural wing
of the ruling Bangladeshi National Party (BNP).
During the assault, Ahmed is said to have shouted at
Choudhury, labeling him an "agent of the Jews."
In a photo taken shortly after the incident that was
obtained exclusively by the Post, Choudhury can be seen
hunched over a table wearing a torn shirt while a Bangladeshi
policeman dressed in blue chats with two BNP officials. Both
officials took part in the attack.
No arrests were made, and police refused to allow Choudhury
to file charges against his attackers.
As the Post first reported last month, Bangladesh is
moving forward with plans to try Choudhury on charges of
blasphemy, sedition, treason and espionage in connection with
his articles critical of Islamic extremism and favorable to
After several delays, his trial is due to start in Dhaka on
Thursday. If convicted, Choudhury faces the death penalty.
The charges stem from November 2003, when Choudhury was
arrested at Dhaka's International Airport as he was preparing
to board a flight on his way to Israel, where he was due to
deliver a speech on promoting mutual understanding between
Muslims and Jews.
Choudhury's visit to Israel would have been the first by a
Bangladeshi journalist. Bangladesh does not recognize Israel's
After being held in prison for 17 months, where he was
reportedly tortured, Choudhury was released in April 2005. But
authorities in Bangladesh, which is ruled by a coalition
government that includes Islamic extremists, decided to pursue
charges against him.
Dr. Richard Benkin, an American human rights activist
leading the fight for Choudhury's release, expressed grave
concern about the current situation.
"Choudhury is unique because he has not fled to the West,
but continues to oppose militant Islamists from inside the
Muslim world," Benkin told the Post. "He feels that if he can
defeat the radicals in their own back yard it will be a
victory for peace and justice unlike any other thus far."
"More and more Muslims are looking at this case," Benkin
said. "They want to see if Shoaib will get the support and
protection he needs from the West. If he is victorious, other
Muslims will try the same; if we allow him to go down, they
will remain silent."
Both the American Jewish Committee and the Writers in
Prison Committee of International PEN have protested
Bangladesh's treatment of Choudhury and called for the charges
against him to be dropped.