After two years of army-backed rule,
By taking a principled stand for justice and peace, Mr. Choudhury has landed in the crosshairs of radical fundamentalists in
The violence against Mr. Choudhury resurrected itself after a hopeful lull. He was again assaulted as thugs entered his workplace and beat his staff on their way to him. They then dragged Mr. Choudhury and two co-workers into the street to beat them in broad daylight. The brutal assault left Mr. Choudhury with eye, neck and other injuries; thereafter, the assailants re-entered the office, took over Mr. Choudhury
Even more outrageous than this brutal attack is its institutional dimension: Mr. Choudhury is currently being blackmailed by a prominent adviser to the ruling Awami League, who has threatened severe "consequences" if Mr. Choudhury does not pay a ransom. The standing threat against Mr. Choudhury explains why his attackers this weekend so readily announced that they were members of the Awami League, taking great care to ensure that Mr. Choudhury recognized their pedigree.
Of course, the whole must be understood in the context of the most obvious institutional assault on Mr. Choudhury: the trumped-up charges that render him liable for the death penalty, if convicted. And what was his crime, allegedly committed back in 2003? Promoting inter-faith dialogue among Muslims, Jews and Christians, seeking peaceful relations with
Sensitive indeed! Mr. Choudhury
More than five years after being charged, Mr. Choudhury still awaits a full trial. Months ago, Mr. Choudhury was suddenly told his proceedings were finally beginning. Then, a government witness failed to show up and the court put the proceedings on hiatus. Now a new judge has replaced the previous one, and it is unclear when the trial will resume.
It is clear that the impunity with which Mr. Choudhury was dragged into the street and beaten, and the impunity with which he is denied a fair hearing, are related. Both of these oppressive acts flout the rule of law, not to mention the climate of freedom and accountability that should characterize modern democracies.
Western nations such as
What Mr. Choudhury has suffered so far is deplorable. But his case offers
-Irwin Cotler is international counsel for Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury. A professor of law (on leave) at McGill University, he is the Member of Parliament for Mount Royal, and the former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada.