Saturday, March 07, 2015

Ten Bangladeshi Hindus Charged with Murder, Denied Due Process

It is a cherished myth of the international elites that Bangladesh is a "moderate" country.  But would a moderate country allow the ethnic cleansing of its non-Muslim populations; admit to having anti-minority laws and then do nothing about it even when it had a chance; arrest journalists and authors for blasphemy and threaten their lives; allow human rights activists and their attorneys to be attacked or as in my case bar them from entering the country?  No, it would not; and though we need no more proof, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her government keep giving us more.  Right now, ten Hindus sit in a squalid prison, charged with murder as collective punishment and denied due process of law.  Perhaps Bangladesh is a moderate country if you tow the line set by Islamists but not if you dare to have a different thought.

In October of 2013, a man entered a religious temple, began destroying holy objects and abusing the women there.  Several men rushed to their defense, and in the struggle that followed, the man was killed.  Now in a moderate country, that might be the end of it except for some press and an investigation; a clear case of self-defense.  But this is Bangladesh, and the dead man was a Muslim, the temple a Hindu temple.  Almost immediately, the local police rounded up eleven members of the Hindu community seemingly at random with no logical connection to the event, and charged them with murder.  The bitter irony is that this same government fails to act even after years when Hindus are attacked.  Local Advocates in Gopalganj, the district represented by Sheikh Hasina where the arrests occurred, were intimidated not to take the case. So the families traveled to the capital of Dhaka and engaged the services of Advocate and human rights activist Rabindra Ghosh.  When he arrived in Gopalganj and asked to see his clients, he was refused.  When he petitioned the local court for justice, he was beaten in the courtroom in front of the judge who allowed it to continue.  When he petitioned the High Court for a change of venue, he was refused.  And now he, his clients, and their families are being threatened if he does not stop his attempt at further appeals.

Oh, did I say eleven men were arrested and charged but only ten sit in prison today?  That's not  typo.  One of the original defendants died while in custody--and of course the Bangladeshis have not looked into that.

The International Commission of Jurists has called on the Bangladeshi government to take "long overdue" action on Rabindra Ghosh's courtroom beating. It also notes that the rule of law has largely broken down in Bangladesh.  And last month in India, I began working on this with Human Rights Defense International, a group of Indian jurists.  I also am working with several staff in the United States Congress on action and am in regular contact with Rabindra Ghosh, who reports that the situation for his clients grows more alarming by the day.  He remains barred from contacting them.

This travesty of justice demands that all who love the law and, in fact, all good people demand due process and a fair trial for the "Gopalganj Ten."  To do so, email me.  Please help; lives depend on it.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,