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Dr. Richard Benkin

US Intelligence Summit to Hear from Benkin about Bangladesh

Monday February 12 2007 15:40:24 PM BDT

Dr. Richard Benkin, longtime advocate for Bangladeshi editor Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury was tabbed to address a gathering of intelligence professionals about Bangladesh next month. I spoke with Benkin via telephone from his Chicago home and asked if his visit to Bangladesh in January and the change of government during his stay affected what he might have to report.

“Yes, it did. Being there gave me a chance to observe things first hand and to speak with quite a few people—people from all over the political map. Most importantly from my point of view, I saw for myself that Shoaib was safe and doing well—that is, as well as can be with those scurrilous and false charges still hanging over his head.”

Benkin said that he is more optimistic now about Bangladesh’s and Choudhury’s fate than he has been in a very long time. “The new government seems to recognize that for Bangladesh to move forward, it has to break from the corruption and radical appeasement that characterized it for so long under both BNP and Awami League rule. The people were terribly served by their leaders. Seeing the results of that really breaks your heart.”

Benkin recognized that some people might resent the importance he places on how how foreigners—namely Americans—view Bangladesh but added that “The people of Bangladesh are free to do whatever they want. Bangladesh is a sovereign country. And so do Americans. If we’re smart, we will buy our garment imports from countries that share our values and have the same goals that we do. That translates into two things about all else: supporting the rights of minorities and dissidents and fighting alongside us against those radicals who want to kill us both.”

That is where January’s events changed what he will say to the intelligence professionals and other dignitaries. Benkin said his original talk would try to “sound the alarm” about an imminent Islamist radical takeover in Bangladesh. He referred to previous material of his that traced the movement of Al Qaeda forces from Afghanistan to Bangaldesh’s doorstep. He also had very harsh words for the previous government’s stated policy of appeasing those radicals and “making policy with an eye toward making those coalition partners happy.”

Benkin and Canadian MP Irwin Cotler, noted international human rights attorney who is part of Choudhury’s defense, both predicted radical gains if elections were held as scheduled. “The State of Emergency stopped that,” he said. “One diplomat even told me that it no doubt saved the country.” As a result, Benkinhe told the convention’s organizers that his address might actually report gains in Bangladesh’s fight against a radical takeover.

“It would be nice to give an upbeat talk,” he said. “I’m hopeful, but will want to see some more. The new government really has its hands full. I think they will be successful, but the old guys always taught me to be at least at little suspicious.”

He noted that the government can go far in that respect by finally dropping the false charges against “my brother.” Right now, he is preparing for a Congressional Resolution that urges just that to be heard in the US Congress next week. The measure has strong support in both parties and should pass easily.

“I believe the new government is serious about fighting radicals and serious about showing it supports justice in a way that the old government was not. I promise you that if they dismiss the case against Shoaib by his next court date [February 28], the intelligence people in Florida will hear an extremely positive and complimentary set of recommendations from me with regard to Bangladesh.”

Hannah Brown writes from USA
Her E Mail : hannahwrite@comcast.net


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