The trial of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury continued this week in
The most important one is that the government has finally admitted that it does not have any evidence to support the admittedly false charges of sedition, treason, and blasphemy. This represents a highly significant change in the position held by the government for the past five and a half years; a position that several Bangladeshi officials have been trying to convince their governments has cost the Bangladeshi people dearly.
Shoaib’s last two court appearances appear to support that conclusion. After months of nothing but continuances and only one government witness (who has been AWOL since being asked for evidence to support his allegations), the prosecution called seven different witnesses in two weeks, who testified only to Shoaib’s alleged attempt to travel to Israel. On July 15, a computer technician added that the government seized Shoaib’s computers but did not say what was on them; and a police official also opined that Shoaib hurt the “religious sentiments of Muslims by praising Christians and Jews.” This week’s witnesses added that Shoaib communicated over the internet to people in
“Did you read these books and are you sure that these are banned?”
“No I did not read them or see any ban order.”
“How do you know that these were banned books?”
“I was told by someone.”
That is about as anemic a case as one could imagine, and it is clear that the prosecution is banking on a political decision; but that decision would cost the Bangladeshi’s. First, and perhaps most important, it would put the lie to apologists who have been claiming that the current Bangladeshi government is more democratic and less patronizing of Islamists than previous ones. To that extent, it would bargain away a major negotiating ploy that the Bangladeshis are planning on using with the
Beyond that, the prosecution through it witnesses alleges that praising Christians and Jews is a major crime in
The government is not presenting any new even compelling evidence. If this is all it can regurgitate after five and a half years, there cannot be much of a case, at least on the basis of Bangladeshi law. Even the judge seemed to agree, asking the defense to explain exactly what Shoaib is accused of doing, after one day of unconvincing testimony. When his Bangladesh Minority Lawyers Association advocate said that he exposeding the rise of radical Islam and its use of madrassas, Judge Bashir Ullah said Shoaib should be rewarded and not condemned.
Shoaib said the Public Prosecutor was smiling at that point. Whether he was smiling because he knows a guilty verdict will be handed down regardless, or because he sees an end to Shoaib’s ordeal crowned with a not guilty verdict, is a matter of speculation. One way or another, according to Shoaib, the government has decided to finish the trial, perhaps as early as August. They could have done so months, even years ago but did not. Perhaps the economic hard times have led them to re-cast their strategy as regards trade. Perhaps they have read recent articles urging the United Nations to bar
If Shoaib is right, the court will set a date for defense rebuttal once the government concludes its case. After that, the judge will retire to determine verdicts and set a date for reading the judgment. An acquittal will vindicate
We would hope that Shoaib's trial is coming to a close, which will see him exhonerated. By rights he should also be awarded compensation for the torture, the harrassment and all the problems that he and his family have had to face over the past 5 years.
Bangladesh stands to lose many friends if there is a miscarriage of justice and what Dr Benkin says is quite true, there will be a backlash in the West if this were to happen. It is quite evident that to any reasonable person thgat he has committed no crime. The Bangladeshi Judge by his remarks would seem to indicate that he sees that there is no case for Shoaib to answer.
International Society for Human Rights Australia