The trial of a moderate Bangladeshi Muslim editor charged
with denouncing Islamic extremism and advocating ties with
Israel is set to enter a critical new phase Monday as
proceedings against him resume in a Dhaka courtroom.
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor of the
English-language Weekly Blitz newspaper, faces multiple
counts of sedition, treason and blasphemy in connection with a
series of articles he published that Bangladeshi authorities
deemed favorable to Israel and critical of Muslim extremism.
Prosecutors will begin calling witnesses against him when
the hearings resume Monday.
Contacted via e-mail by The Jerusalem Post,
Choudhury expressed little confidence that he would receive a
fair trial, describing it as being little more than "a pre-set
drama," with the presiding judge, Muhammad Momin Ullah,
serving as both "a one-man judge and jury."
"The judge," he wrote, "has his mind set to convict me. So,
we definitely cannot expect justice from him."
"All witnesses are from the prosecution side, and they are
all police or intelligence officials, so naturally they will
speak in favor of the allegations against me," he wrote.
Although Choudhury's lawyer will be permitted to
cross-examine the prosecution witnesses, he will not be
allowed to call any of his own to testify in Choudhury's
If found guilty, Choudhury could be sentenced to death.
In a letter sent to Bangladeshi President Iajuddin Ahmed
last week, a copy of which was obtained by the Post,
Choudhury appealed for steps to be taken to ensure his
personal security, after Muslim radicals have targeted him for
attack in recent months.
As first reported in the Post, a mob of 40 people
that included senior members of Bangladesh's ruling party
stormed Choudhury's office last month and assaulted him,
fracturing his ankle. No arrests were made, and Bangladeshi
police refused to allow Choudhury to file charges against his
In July, his office was fire-bombed shortly after the
leader of a radical group threatened to kill him.
"I once again humbly request Your Excellency to kindly
intervene," Choudhury wrote Ahmed, "to ensure proper
protection and security to me and members of my family."
Choudhury's troubles began in November 2003 at Dhaka's
international airport just prior to boarding a flight to
Israel, where he was scheduled to deliver an address on
promoting understanding between Muslims and Jews. His visit to
the Jewish state would have been the first by a Bangladeshi
After being held in prison for 17 months, where he was
tortured by the authorities, Choudhury was freed in April
2005, thanks to a campaign that was waged on his behalf by US
human rights activist Dr. Richard Benkin. On October 12,
Choudhury was arraigned in a Dhaka court.
The US State Department has criticized the proceedings
against him, saying that "Choudhury is clearly a victim of
Bangladesh's dysfunctional legal and judicial systems."
International human rights groups have also called for his
release, as have various congressmen.