Bangladesh editor jailed for planning Israel trip

By Bernard Josephs, January 16, 2014
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A Bangladeshi editor whose paper publishes articles about Israel and criticises Islamist extremism has been sentenced by a court to seven years in jail.

The hearing, in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka, said that Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, who runs The Weekly Blitz, had damaged the national interest with his writing and by planning to visit Israel more than a decade ago.

Police first arrested him when he was about to board a flight at Dhaka airport in November, 2003.

Mr Choudhury had been on his way to Tel Aviv where he was due to address a seminar on co-existence. Bangladeshi citizens are forbidden from visiting Israel and he was accused of sedition. He remained on bail until this week.

Other allegations against Mr Choudhury included “promoting inter-communal tensions” and “publishing provocative articles” in USA Today.

The articles, said the prosecution, besmirched Bangladesh, which has no relations with Israel.

Defence lawyer Prokash Ranjan Biswas remarked that the hearing was “extremely unjust” and an appeal against the decision was planned.

The American Jewish Committee (AJC), which gave Mr Choudhury its Moral Courage Award in recognition of his commitment to interfaith dialogue, said the editor was “a voice of reason who has chosen a path of engagement with the larger world including Israel”. AJC executive director David Harris said that the episode “severely damages the country’s image.”

Last updated: 8:45pm, January 16 2014