Authorities proceed in sedition case against journalist

New York, February 22, 2005—The Bangladesh Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has issued a “charge sheet” against Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor and publisher of the tabloid weekly Blitz, a critical step in bringing the journalist to trial on sedition and anti-state allegations that could lead to the death penalty.

The charge sheet discloses details of the CID’s case against Choudhury, who has been imprisoned since November 2003. The Committee to Protect Journalists today called the development deeply troubling, and it urged the government to drop the charges against Choudhury immediately.

Choudhury was arrested while on his way to Israel to participate in a conference with the Hebrew Writers Association. Bangladesh has no formal relations with Israel, and travel to Israel is illegal for Bangladeshi citizens. He was charged with passport violations, which were later dropped, and was then formally charged with sedition in February 2004. As evidence for the sedition charges brought against Choudhury three months after his arrest, an airport security officer cited articles written by the journalist about the rise of fundamentalism in Bangladesh.

In Bangladesh, a trial cannot proceed without the issuance of a charge sheet. The charge sheet submitted by the CID on February 13 claims to have proved the sedition charges filed against Choudhury. Authorities have not notified Choudhury’s family of a court date but have placed the case under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Sessions Judge’s Court, according to his brother.

“Issuing a charge sheet against Choudhury is a disturbing further step in the ongoing prosecution of this journalist, who has already been imprisoned for 14 months on scurrilous charges,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We call on Bangladeshi authorities to drop these charges and release him from custody.”