THE CASE OF SALAH UDDIN SHOAIB CHOUDHURY
Throughout 2003, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury brought Bangladesh its first balanced news and information about the Middle East. He also wrote emphatically about the need for dialogue and understanding among Jews, Muslims, and Christians, and strongly condemned terrorism and the media bias against Israel and Jews.

He urged his country to recognize Israel and warned of Islamic fundamentalism's growing influence, winning him a following both inside his country and internationally. He published his country's first interview with an Israeli, Nobel Prize nominee Dr. Ada Aharoni, and agreed to open a Bangladesh office of her interfaith NGO, IFLAC, dedicated to peace, freedom, and equality. He helped Dr. Richard Benkin, an American Jew and Zionist activist, publish inside Bangladesh. Their articles sparked beginnings of debate in the Bangladeshi press and in the halls of government. But sinister forces in the government and media (even his own brother-in-law) were determined to stop him and the free exchange of ideas in his country.

On November 29, as he prepared to board a plane for Bangkok on his way to Tel Aviv to address IFLAC on the media's role in creating peace, police grabbed him. The next day, a magistrate ordered him remanded for "questioning." The pending charge: espionage, spying for "the interests of Israel against the interests of Bangladesh." Shortly thereafter, police raided his home and office, seizing his computers, disks, and other files. A mob followed on their heels and sacked the premises with impunity. Through selective government leaks, innuendo and outright falsehoods, a public vilification program and wild accusations ensued. His family was threatened, and that plus continual pressure to renounce him contributed to his mother's death by heart attack. His brother and principal spokesman, Sohail Choudhury, has been attacked and twice had to flee the capital of Dhaka. Police refused even to record the attacks chastising the Choudhurys for their "alliance with the Jews."

Choudhury was hauled before the court numerous times, and despite the lack of substantive charges, continually returned to prison for ongoing interrogations by security forces, some of whom he recognized as prominent fundamentalists. In March, things took a dangerous turn when Choudhury was charged with sedition, a capital offense, although no evidence for such a charge has ever been presented. The Prime Minister's office has twice ordered the case expedited, but prison authorities and the Home Ministry have blocked its implementation. And this courageous Muslim advocate of interfaith dialogue sits in a Dhaka jail cell, often under deplorable conditions, and facing possible death for his beliefs. He has been imprisoned for almost a year with no hearing date in sight or possibility of bail. His health is deteriorating, his family desperate having been blocked from earning a living, but he remains focused on his faith and the justice of his cause. Fellow prisoners call him "friend of the Jews."

But you can help; you can strike a blow for freedom, for justice, and for interfaith understanding. Sign the petition, linked on this site, in his behalf. Voice your outrage to the various officials in Bangladesh and elsewhere in a world silent over this human rights travesty, through the letters provided here. You also can leave a letter of support and comfort for Choudhury and his family on this site. And you can add your prayers to the countless others said daily on behalf of this fine man. Be part of the international effort to free Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury. The effort is being coordinated by Dr. Richard Benkin, Choudhury's friend and colleague. Benkin is an author and advocate from the United States. For further information, requests for articles or for speaking engagements, or to offer your insights and help, please contact us.
Read the speech Shoaib was to have delivered in Israel on a culture of peace--the same speech police leaks cited as "evidence" of sedition. But while they have not released it, we have. Read it for yourself and decide if any society calling itself democratic would deny an individual's freedom and possibly his life based on it. You can also read Dr. Benkin's " Dear Bangladesh" about a role for Bangladesh in bringing Mid-East peace. Published in Bangladesh, reprinted worldwide, it sparked debate in media and government. To request Dr. Benkin as a speaker or for an article by him, contact us. By visiting this site, you already have made a difference.







 
International effort to free Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury.
Dr. Richard L. Benkin, Chair.