Sunday, February 22, 2009

One day all this will end, I tell myself.

A couple of years ago I helped put together an informal Canadian Friends of Sallahuddin Shoaib Choudhury, and we ended up thinking that we'd made ourselves useful at a critical juncture in the story of Choudhury's persecution. And perhaps we were useful, in some small way.

Only last week, it seemed that things were looking up for Choudhury, a recipient of the Freedom to Write Award from PEN USA and the Moral Courage Award from American Jewish Committee: On trial and facing a death sentence for treason, sedition and blasphemy in Bangladesh, Choudhury stood in a courtroom in Dhaka and was happily surprised to hear Metropolitan Session Judge Muhammed Bashir Ullah tell him that he should be thanked for his prophecy instead of being persecuted by the state.

Then, this morning, this urgent bulletin appears on the front page of Choudhury's newspaper, the Weekly Blitz:

At 10am Sunday, local time, internationally-acclaimed journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, was attacked as he was working in the office of his newspaper, Weekly Blitz, by “a gang of thugs” claiming to be from Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League. I spoke by telephone with Choudhury as he awaited medical treatment for eye, neck, and other injuries suffered in the attack. The renewed violence marks the first against him since he was abducted by Bangladesh ’s dreaded Rapid Action Battalion a year ago.

A large group led by one Shamim introducing himself to be an official of DGFI stormed Blitz premises and attacked newspaper staff until they found Choudhury. At that point, he said, “they dragged me [and two staff] into the street” where they beat them “in broad daylight…They looted my office and stole my laptop” with “all my sensitive information. " As of this writing, the attackers continue to occupy the Blitz office.


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