Although the government privately agreed to drop the charges, which officials quietly admitted were false, the Public Prosecutor said in the brief court session that he intends to proceed with the case.
A new trial date has been set for July 18th. If convicted, Choudhury will be executed by hanging or be sentenced to 30 years in prison – itself a death sentence, according to Bangladeshi sources.
The Muslim writer was arrested several years ago by agents of the previous government as he was leaving the country for a speaking engagement in Israel. The initial charge was violation of the country’s ban on travel to the Jewish State, which officials used as an excuse to torture and hold the journalist in prison for 17 months.
The real issue, according to the Independent Media Review Analysis (IMRA), is his Zionism, which he expresses in articles that also expose the rise of radical Islam in Bangladesh.
He is on trial because he writes plainly about the danger of extremist madrassas teaching children as young as five to hate Jews and Israel.
Intense pressure by U.S. Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL) and human rights activist Dr. Richard L. Benkin led to Choudhury’s release, but the reprieve was temporary. A resolution by the U.S. Congress in March of this year, calling on the government to drop the charges went unheeded.
According to IMRA, there is enough evidence to prove Choudhury’s innocence. The Bangladeshi government, say numerous advocates for the Muslim journalist, knows the charges are false. A coup in January 2007 brought in a new administration, which claims to be free of Islamic radicalism, but the conduct of Choudhury’s case belies the statement.
His brother, Sohail, who sent a desperate appeal to the international community for assistance in saving Choudhury’s life, says the charge stems from “rumors originating in Saudi Arabia.”
“His country proclaims that Shoaib’s support for Israel is treason because it is in opposition to their policy and that is blasphemous, a charge they find convenient……..He is on trial because he writes plainly about the danger of extremist madrassas teaching children as young as five to hate Jews and Israel…..Shoaib works tirelessly for interfaith understanding. Bangladesh considers this treason and blasphemy,” wrote the journalist’s brother, who appealed to the international community to intervene in the case.