Today marks the one-year anniversary of the arrest and imprisonment of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, the editor and publisher of the tabloid weekly Blitz. The Committee to Protect Journalists strongly condemns Choudhury’s ongoing detention and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.
Choudhury was arrested on November 29, 2003, at the Zia International Airport in the capital, Dhaka, while on his way to Israel to participate in a conference with the Hebrew Writers Association. He was charged with passport violations, which were later dropped, and was then formally charged with sedition in February 2004.
Bangladesh has no formal relations with Israel, and it is illegal for citizens to travel there. The charges relating to Choudhury’s travel to Israel were dropped in June because he had already served the mandated prison sentence during his detention, according to his family. As evidence for the sedition charges brought against Choudhury three months after his arrest, airport security officer Abdul Harif cited articles written by the journalist about the rise of fundamentalism in Bangladesh.
In June, Choudhury’s family received a copy of a letter from your office to the home minister’s office requesting that the necessary steps be taken to expedite Choudhury’s case, according to Choudhury’s family. Despite your personal instructions, Choudhury remains trapped in legal limbo. Choudhury’s requests for release on bail pending trial have been repeatedly denied, according to his family. In August, despite appeals, the High Court formally refused his bail request, and sources say he has now exhausted his legal options.
Choudhury is still being held in the Dhaka Central Jail. No court date has been set because officially his case remains “under investigation,” sources say. He also continues to be denied medical treatment for eye problems, according to his family.
Choudhury should never have been charged and detained. Journalists should never be jailed for their work, even when they write about sensitive or unpopular issues, as did Choudhury. CPJ urges Your Excellency to do everything within your power to ensure that he is promptly released from custody and can continue his work.
We thank you for your attention to this urgent matter and await your response.