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Anti-Islamist Muslim Journalist Taken by Paramilitary Goons in Bangladesh

Dr. Richard L. Benkin - 3/23/2008

DHAKA (MARCH 18, 2008) At approximately 7:00pm, Dhaka time, members of Bangladesh's Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) stormed the office of anti-jihadist Muslim journalist, SALAH UDDIN SHOAIB CHOUDHURY. A para-military arm of the government, RAB is notorious for its crackdowns on dissidents and wholesale violations of human rights. They ordered all employees out of the newspaper and interrogated Shoaib , seizing his phones and not allowing him any communication with friends, family, or legal counsel. After more than an hour and a half, RAB claimed to find a controlled substance in Shoaib's desk--an allegation that Shoaib's friends and associates claim is impossible. His brother Sohail claims that any evidence had to be planted. Shoaib was blindfolded and taken a RAB interrogation center in Dhaka where his captors verbally abused him for hours, repeatedly calling him a "Zionist spy and agent of the Jews." The verbal assault, which included numerous threats, continued for another three hours until someone RAB described as a "high government official" telephoned and ordered them to release him. When Shoaib asked about the contrived drug charge, he was told that they would not pursue it.

That order followed some immediate and direct action from several quarters. Upon receiving the news about his brother, Sohail contacted Dr. Richard Benkin of Chicago . After the two discussed strategy, Sohail called the US Embassy, and the matter was reported to the charge d'affairs. Benkin contacted the office of Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL) who has been Shoaib's long time champion in Congress. Kirk's staff, led by Andria Hoffman, set up a command center in his office, while Benkin contacted several other supportive members of Congress and Shoaib's international human rights attorney Irwin Cotler. Benkin then called the Bangladeshi Embassy and demanded that Shoaib be released unharmed immediately or there would be consequences. Soon thereafter, the embassy received telephone calls from several Congressional offices including Kirk's and those of Rep.Trent Franks (R-AZ), Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), Rep. Steven Rothman (D-NJ), and others.

Though Shoaib was released unharmed, the action represents a serious escalation of the government's harassment of the courageous journalist who now counts supporters on every continent save Antarctica . People in RAB custody have been known to "disappear," and RAB does not carry out actions such as today's without serious consequences. The raid could have been in response to several failed attmepts on the part of the government and radical Islamists to re-incarcerate Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury. And in my years of work on this case, I have learned that every government action is a probe of our resolve to continue the fight against injustice--a resolve several government officials have told me we do not have. And so we MUST respond.

PLEASE, EVERYONE EITHER CALL OR EMAIL THE BANGLADESHI EMBASSY. IN THE US, 202-244-0183 and bdootwash@bangladoot.org. FLOOD THEM WITH PROTESTS; ASK EVERYONE YOU KNOW TO DO THE SAME UNTIL THE NOISE PROTESTING THEIR EGREGIOUS ACTIONS IS HEARD ALL THE WAY TO DHAKA!

Make a clear and very loud protest. Let them know that the Bangladeshi government will be held responsible if anything happens to Shoaib. People already are calling for a boycott of all Bangladeshi products after today; and the government should know that. Let them know that they can't get away with this, that our resolve for Shoaib has not diminished on bit. Let them know that there will be hell to pay.

If you live outside the United States and need information about your country's Bangladesh Embassy, contact me.

ALSO, IF IN THE UNITED STATES, CONTACT YOUR SENATOR OR MEMBER OF CONGRESS AND URGE HIM OR HER TO TAKE ACTION. THEY CAN CO-ORDINATE WITH MARK KIRK'S OFFICE (202-225-4835). If you live elsewhere, contact your representative in the legislature and urge him or her to take actoin. Bangladesh is still trying to convince us that it is a "moderate Muslim country," but it is clearly a patron of terror. The ONLY reason they maintain this admittedly baseless case against Shoaib--and they have told me this--is to placate radical Islamists.

Dr. Richard L. Benkin is a US Correspondent for Weekly Blitz; International Correspondent for Amader Shomoy (Dhaka); and Special Advisor to the Intelligence Summit on Bangladeshi Affairs.

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