Here is an appeal from the Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of International PEN on behalf of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, due to go on trial today in Bangladesh on sedition charges:
[Choudhury] was reportedly attacked by a group of about 30 men at the offices of his newspaper, "Blitz", on 5 October 2006. His attackers are thought to have included leading members of the ruling Bangladesh National Party (BNP). [He] was reportedly badly beaten in the attack...Some background on the case:
WiPC calls upon the Bangladeshi authorities to provide [Choudhury] with effective police protection immediately. WiPC protests the charges against [him] and urges that they be dropped in accordance with Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
"When I began my newspaper [the Weekly Blitz] in 2003 I decided to make an end to the well-orchestrated propaganda campaign against Jews and Christians and especially against Israel," he says in the first of several telephone interviews in recent days. "In Bangladesh and especially during Friday prayers, the clerics propagate jihad and encourage the killing of Jews and Christians. When I was a child my father told me not to believe those words but to look at the world's realities."And see here on Richard Benkin's efforts to secure Choudhury's release then.
With that in mind, Mr. Choudhury, then 38, began publishing articles sympathetic to Israel in the Weekly Blitz while reaching out to Jewish and Israeli writers he encountered on the Web. That led to the invitation by the Hebrew Writers' Association, and to Mr. Choudhury's only crime: By attempting to travel to Israel in November 2003, he violated the Passport Act, which forbids citizens from visiting countries (such as Israel and Taiwan) with which Bangladesh does not maintain diplomatic relations. Violations of the Passport Act are usually punishable by a fine of $8.
But that wasn't the sentence meted to Mr. Choudhury. Following his arrest he was taken into police custody and, as he tells it, blindfolded, beaten and interrogated almost incessantly for 10 days in an attempt to extract a confession that he was spying for Israel. He refused to offer one. He spent the next 16 months in solitary confinement in a Dhaka jail, where he was denied medical treatment for his glaucoma.