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President Iajuddin Ahmed: Restore Faith in Bangladesh Justice, Drop Choudhury Case

President Iajuddin Ahmed: Restore Faith in

Bangladesh Justice, Drop Choudhury Case

Dr. Richard L. Benkin writes from USA                                    

The assumption of the Caretaker government under President Iajuddin Ahmed provides Bangladesh with a small window of opportunity to repair the damage done to it over the past several years by the outgoing BNP government.  Effective action even within the Caretaker’s limited powers can also prevent terrible consequences to the Bangladeshi people that are now in the offing due to the previous government’s decision to throw Bangladesh’s lot in with the most radical elements in the Muslim world.

In large part these consequences are likely to come from the United States, which imports 70 percent of Bangladeshi garments and related goods; but similar concerns are being voiced now in such places as Canada, Britain and the European Union, Australia, and elsewhere.  But President Iajuddin Ahmed and his government can correct that with a considered, rational, unbiased, and unafraid analysis of the facts.

Mr. President, your predecessors have been unsuccessful in their attempts to convince the world that Bangladesh is resolute in opposing terrorists. In fact, their actions in that respect vary so from their words that government assurances and sporadic arrests are seen as cynical and disingenuous in Washington and other capitals.  You, sir, respectfully can change that.  Former members of the BNP government lamely tried to defend their actions by citing their fear of “how the radical will react” to justify inaction in the face of terrorist attacks against Bangladesh and Bangladesh jurisprudence.  The Caretaker government does not have to worry about radical Islamists bolting from a nationally destructive coalition; nor does it have to worry about votes in January (another excuse offered by former government officials).  The best way for the Caretaker to correct this course is to state clearly that it will not be working with or appeasing those whose stated aims are the destruction of Bangladeshi democracy, the imposition of Sharia, and eternal jihad; or to re-make Bangladesh in the image of failed Taliban-like states.

Mr. President, your predecessors have threatened $63 million in annual US aid by refusing to drop Sedition, Treason, and Blasphemy charges against Weekly Blitz editor and publisher Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury.  Begun in the dark of night and expected to remain hidden from the rest of the world, this unrepentant travesty of justice has continued to garner more and more attention in world capitals and in major US (and soon other) media.  That numerous officials of the former government admitted that there is no basis to the charges now heightens the growing world demand to drop them.  That the defense is not allowed even to present witnesses on its own behalf in such a high profile trial highlights injustice as opposed to justice in the Bangladeshi legal system.  That the US embassy sent an observer to the trial who sat with Shoaib’s defense attorney further indicated the position being taken by that power.  That a judge with suspected JMB ties has sole discretion over Shoaib’s fate once again shines a spotlight on both injustice and the growing power of those whose goal is to undermine freedom everywhere.  The best way for the Caretaker to correct this growing international incident is to drop the charges before world bodies impose international jurisdiction over the matter (as was proposed previously in other cases).


Mr. President, your predecessors allowed outright persecution—even murder, rape, and torture—of religious minorities on a regular and pre-meditated basis.  The same treatment has been meted out regularly to those courageous journalists who have attempted to defend Bangladesh’s honor by exposing those acts in contravention of traditional Bangladeshi values.  Once when confronted about this in Washington, the Bangladeshi ambassador tried to hide behind the (false) claim that the perpetrators were not members of the government.  But several US lawmakers later said that they found the ambassador’s comments more damning of his country than helpful.  Was he, they asked, justifying such heinous acts and the government’s refusal to prosecute them?  Mr. President, you can correct such things by making sure that—for the national good—the police under your control have no tolerance for such persecution and to elevate minorities to meaningful positions within the scope of your powers.  Further, you can acknowledge that the implementation of Sharia in Bangladesh would be an act of violence against the approximately 20-25 million Bangladeshis who are not Muslim—not to mention Muslims who do not subscribe to that one variant of Islam.

Mr. President, the US Congress re-convenes on November 13, the same day that Shoaib’s trial is set to resume.  Members of Congress are planning something very specific for that date which will not bode well for US-Bangladesh relations.  At risk is not only the $63 million in annual aid (something that has already been broached in at least two major US newspapers and among several in Congress).  Once awakened to the danger, Americans can be quite stubborn about not purchasing goods that come from countries that sit with their enemies, support radical use of their court systems to persecute dissidents, persecute minorities, and such.  If undercurrents in the US move to the next stage, they could threaten to put a sizeable dent in the amount of goods that Bangladesh can sell to US companies.  That would have catastrophic results for millions of your citizens.  Now, to be sure, Bangladesh is a sovereign state with the right to act within its borders as it sees fit.  That is not at issue, but at the same time, the United States is also a sovereign state.  It has the right not to provide its largesse to nations that support the demise of freedom.  American citizens have a right to demand that their tax dollars not go to nations that support radicals.  And American consumers have the right to spend their money on goods from whatever countries they so choose.

Mr. President, you can prevent harm to the nation by undertaking an immediate review of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury’s case and dismiss it for lack of evidence, before international outrage forces the same result.

Posted on 31 Oct 2006 by Root

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