A Bangladeshi Muslim journalist arrested in the past for
advocating ties with Israel now faces charges of sedition, a
crime punishable by death in Bangladesh, and will likely be
put on trial by the end of the month, The Jerusalem
Post has learned.
In a court session on Tuesday in Dhaka, the capital of
Bangladesh, a state-appointed judge ruled that the
government's case against Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury could
proceed to trial and that the hearings would commence within
As editor of The Weekly Blitz, an English-language
newspaper published in Dhaka, Choudhury aroused the ire of
Bangladeshi authorities after he printed articles favorable to
Israel and critical of Muslim extremism.
Bangladesh does not recognize Israel's existence and
refuses to establish diplomatic relations with the Jewish
In November 2003, Choudhury was arrested at Dhaka's
international airport just prior to boarding a flight on his
way to Israel, where he was scheduled to deliver an address on
promoting understanding between Muslims and Jews. His visit to
Israel would have been the first by a Bangladeshi journalist.
Choudhury was charged with sedition, held in prison for 17
months and was reportedly tortured before being freed in April
2005. But the authorities in Bangladesh, which is ruled by a
coalition government that includes Islamic extremists, decided
to continue pursuing charges against him.
Dr. Richard Benkin, an American Jew who led the fight to
win Choudhury's release, told the Post that the
situation facing the beleaguered journalist was dire.
"Choudhury has angered the Islamists, who both engineered
his arrest and continue to see this as an important case,"
Benkin said. "He is a pro-Israeli, anti-terrorist Muslim who
will not be cowed into silence."
After his release from prison last year, Choudhury
proceeded to reopen his weekly newspaper, continuing to
publish articles calling for greater interfaith understanding
and warning of the dangers posed by fundamentalist Islamic
Last month, unknown assailants set off explosives outside
the newspaper's offices and planted a bomb in the press room
that failed to detonate.
According to Benkin, Choudhury's family has been subjected
to various forms of what appear to be orchestrated harassment.
These have included pressure from the Bangladeshi authorities
to denounce Choudhury, angry crowds gathering outside their
home and even physical attacks. The intimidation has stopped
"for the moment," he said.
In a May 20, 2005 opinion piece published in the
Post, Choudhury wrote: "As a journalist, I counteracted
the biased 'news' that promoted hatred of Israel and Jews,
condemned terrorism, promoted the free exchange of ideas and
urged Bangladesh to recognize Israel."
Describing the moments immediately before his 2003 arrest,
he wrote: "Though physically still in Dhaka, my heart ached to
kiss Israel's holy soil."