An op-ed piece from yesterday's Wall Street Journal offers some disturbing news regarding Bangladeshi editor Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury:
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor of a weekly newspaper in Dhaka, was charged in January 2004 with sedition, a charge that has since been broadened to include treason, blasphemy and espionage. His real "crime" was to advocate for peaceful relations between Muslims and Jews in the Mideast and to call attention to the radical Islamist threat within Bangladesh. Pressure from the U.S. helped lead to his release on bail in April 2005, although the charges have not been dropped.
Now Dhaka is ratcheting up the pressure. On March 18, more than a dozen members of the government's Rapid Action Battalion stormed Mr. Choudhury's newspaper offices in Dhaka at gunpoint. After "discovering" illegal drugs in Mr. Choudhury's desk drawer, the RAB blindfolded Mr. Choudhury and a colleague and carted them to headquarters. There, Mr. Choudhury tells us, his interrogators accused him of being a "Zionist spy" and beat his colleague, Mahboob Ar Rahman, a 57-year-old man who had to seek medical treatment. The pair were released after midnight.
The RAB has a reputation for extreme thuggishness. Created in 2004 by the civilian government in place at the time, it is supposed to be an elite counter-terrorism force. As Mr. Choudhury left their custody, his RAB abductors told him that if he raised a fuss about the incident they'd return, perhaps to his home next time. He tells us the threats have continued for the past week.
The editorial notes that the House of Representatives has voted overwhelmingly to demand that the charges against Choudhury be dropped. These words need to be followed up with actions. The Bangladeshi government's persecution of Choudhury is both an individual outrage and an alarming symptom of the growth of Islamist militancy in that country. If it is allowed to stand unchallenged the eventual impact will be felt well beyond Bangladesh.
An American friend of Choudhury's, Richard Benkin, has a site called Interfaith Strength with much more on this situation.