outside of the United States Capitol Building, US Congressman Mark Kirk
congratulates Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury on
the tremendous support for House Resolution 64 passed to support him.
-- Picture courtesy of Dr. Richard Benk
US Passes Resolution on Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Hannah Brown- For News from Bangladesh
Monday March 19 2007 16:29:18 PM BDT
many months, several US officials have been urging the Bangladeshi
government to drop charges of sedition, treason and blasphemy against
journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury. Senator Richard Durbin, a
Democrat and one of the most powerful Senators in Washington, for
example, wrote a strong letter to the current government in Dhaka
through the Bangladeshi embassy.
In it, the Senator said that “the sedition charge is a form of
retaliation for Mr. Choudhury’s political views and a serious violation
of his human rights.”
Members of Congress from both parties, led by Congressman Mark Kirk of
Chicago, Mr. Choudhury’s principle defender in Congress, have issued
many strong statements to the Bangladeshis. Diplomats tend not to get
involved in matters like this, but even the US Embassy in Dhaka and
Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher have urged the
Bangladeshis to drop charges the Bangladeshis admit are baseless.
But the Bangladeshi government ignored them, apparently mistaking
friendly warnings for a weak stance. So last week, the US increased the
By an overwhelming vote of 409 to 1, Congress passed a Resolution that
calls on Bangladesh “to immediately drop all pending charges” against
Mr. Choudhury. While resolutions like this never contains sanctions,
they “set the basis for serious sanctions if the recipient doesn’t get
the message,” according to Dr. Richard L. Benkin, the American who has
led the battle for Mr. Choudhury both in the United States and
When I asked Dr. Benkin what form those sanctions might take, he told
me that he “could not speak for the US government of anyone in
particular” and urged me to look closely at the speakers and their
words. Two of the speakers were the top Democrat (Cong. Nita Lowey of
New York) and the top Republican (Cong. Kirk) on the committee that
rules on US aid to Bangladesh. In fact, this was Cong. Kirk’s
resolution, and Cong. Lowey was his co-sponsor. Mr. Kirk called the
charges “politically motivated” and used “in an effort to silence [Mr.
Choudhury].” Cong. Lowey said that ‘We are watching, and we will not
allow Mr. Choudhury and others like him to be silenced.” Cong. John
Boozman of Arkansas, the Republican floor leader on the measure, said
that it had his “wholehearted support.” He represents the district
where the largest importer of Bangladeshi garments is located.
Dr. Benkin also called it “extremely important” that every speaker tied
Shoaib’s persecution to the War on Terror. “That, for instance, is a
direct message to Bangladesh that dropping the charges against Shoaib
is the only way they can prove what they have been trying to tell
Washington for years; namely, that they are a moderate Muslim nation
and an ally in the war on terror. If they don’t it’ll just be noise.”
Dr. Benkin was present for the Resolution and during the debate in
which he was called a “tireless human activist” and along with Mr.
Choudhury the “inspiration” for this effort.
Hannah Brown, California USA-For News from Bangladesh
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