FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: APRIL 30, 2005
CONTACT: DR. RICHARD L. BENKIN
IMPRISONED JOURNALIST RELEASED AFTER 17-MONTH ORDEAL
Earlier today, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, the Muslim journalist jailed
after publishing articles that urged his nation of Bangladesh to recognize
Israel, advocated interfaith dialogue, and condemned terrorism and the
growing power of radical Islamists in the non-Arab Muslim world, was
released at about 7pm Dhaka time.
Throughout 2003, Choudhury wrote articles countering the biased news about
Israel and the Jews, interviewed Israeli professor and Nobel Peace Prize
nominee Ada Aharoni, and helped Zionist Richard Benkin publish material in
the Bangladeshi press. All of this sparked debate and discussion where there
had been none before. But as he was about to leave for an historic address
in Tel Aviv, Choudhury was taken away by police.
Not charged at first, though accused of the catch-all "spying for Israel,"
Choudhury was repeatedly denied bail even beyond the limits of Bangladeshi
law. Police raided his home and office, seizing computers and files;
followed by a mob that sacked the premises with impunity. His brother was
beaten and twice had to flee Dhaka; and his family was threatened and
brought to the brink of financial ruin. Eventually, he was charged with
sedition, a capital offense, though the government admitted in its own
investigation that there was no real evidence for the charge.
But things started to change early in April when US Congressman Mark Kirk
(R-IL) got involved, calling a meeting between himself, Benkin, and new
Bangladeshi Ambassador Shamsher Chowdhury. Kirk proved a solid advocate for
Choudhury and human rights, clearly enunciating the case for his freedom.
Chowdhury was receptive and promised to press the matter with his
government. All three men pledged to work together for justice. The
ambassador proved to be a man of his word. Soon thereafter, Choudhury began
receiving the needed health care previously denied him; and only three weeks
after the meeting, he was freed. It was accomplished within the framework of
Bangladeshi law and involved efforts by several high government officials.
Choudhury himself is anything but bitter. Speaking with Benkin shortly after
his release, Choudhury said "my 17 months in prison will have been worth it"
if the government of Bangladesh helps return that nation to the principles
of tolerance and democracy that are its heritage.
And based on what we have seen from that government, his optimism seems