Darkness at noon

Daniel Freedman holds down the fort at the New York Sun’s It Shines for All. On Friday Daniel interviewed Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, facing trial and a possible death sentence for “praising Jews and Christians,” “spying for Israel,” and being “an agent of the Mossad” — because he advocated relations between Israel and Bangladesh:

He’s also accused of being critical of Islamic radicals, which is considered blasphemy. He committed these crimes by writing articles favorable toward Jews and Christians.
He did so, he says, because while he was born and raised in a Muslim country (Bangladesh) where he was taught a “religion of hatred” and a “religion of Jihad,” his father “told from an early age not to listen and to learn for himself.” He did and became friends with Jews, realized the lies he had been taught, and wanted to end “the culture of hatred.” He says that if “Muslim countries want peace they need relations with Israel.”
Mr. Choudhury says he holds no hope of getting a fair trial. The judge, he says, is a radical Islamist who has already made clear his view that Mr. Choudhury is guilty. “In open court … he made comments that by praising Christians and Jews I have hurt the sentiment of Muslims…which is a crime,” the journalist says. Other comments made by the Judge have made it clear, Mr. Choudhury tells me, that the judge’s goal is a conviction and a death sentence. Mr. Choudhury describes his judge as a “one man judge and jury,” and Mr. Choudhury cannot even present witnesses in his own defense.

I missed this devastating story when (as Daniel notes) Bret Stephens devoted his weekly Wall Street Journal column (“Darkness in Dhaka,” subscribers only) to it. Daniel notes that America is far from powerless to help Choudhury:

While the trial is prejudged and Mr. Choudhury will be given a death sentence, the president of the country can drop the charges if the national interest is at stake. And here’s where America comes in. America gives Bangladesh $63 million a year. The American people and government might begin to question what we’re getting for our investment.

Daniel concludes his column with a plea for us to raise our voices:

When asked what the free world can do to help him, Mr. Choudhury replies, “The more international voices” protesting the case, the better. “We can fight together and we will win.” Mr. Choudhury is a man in the mold of such heroes of freedom as Vaclac Havel and Lech Walesa.
The question for the American government and people is, will we stand up for him?

In “Bangladesh” George Harrison sang, “It’s something we can’t neglect.” The sentiment applies in spades to the fate of Choudhury. The trial commences tomorrow.

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