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Photo: bdnews24.com

Lately, I’ve been invited to give my reaction to what’s going on there in Bangladesh in regard to Abdul Quader Mollah’s life sentence. Why wasn’t he given the death penalty? As I did the research, it seemed a sloppy job of prosecution on the part of the state. When you’re going to take someone’s life, you must assume a verdict of innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

The dispassionate facts that govern that stern-faced, blind woman of justice must never be swayed by the will of the people. The old adage that a person is judged guilty until proven innocent means that even the most unpopular monster should get a fair trial. This is the fundamental tenant of a civilized society. Any society lacking this cannot call itself democratic.

That might be the end of my article.

As an American, looking over some of the old documents and news reports, gleaning what I could from sources on the Internet, I found myself deeply troubled. Do I tell you, my dear readers why? I hesitate.

See, I don’t like hanging dirty laundry in public.

As a US citizen, I have a patriotic duty to foster mutual understanding and goodwill between my nation and the rest of the world. That’s why it pains me to rail against what I see as the complicity of the Nixon administration in what happened to Bangladesh, and in fact, what happened throughout the world in the name of containment. Unlike Quader Mollah, most of the many murderous proxies of American and Soviet meddling were never brought to justice.

And now I venture an opinion on this trial. Is my opinion, as an American, just a gentler form of interventionist, post-colonial meddling? Do I deserve an opinion here?

I think, in this case, I will use the precedent set by American diplomats in Dhaka during Quader Mollah’s reign of terror to accept the license to air my feelings. In 1971, in a public statement these diplomats, not people to usually hang their dirty laundry in public, had this to say:

Our (US) government has failed to denounce the suppression of democracy. Our government has failed to denounce atrocities. Our government has failed to take forceful measures to protect its citizens while at the same time bending over backwards to placate the West Pakistan dominated government… We, as professional public servants express our dissent with current policy and fervently hope that our true and lasting interests here can be defined and our policies redirected in order to salvage our nation’s position as a moral leader of the free world.

Photo: bdnews24.com
Photo: bdnews24.com

These are bold words, and they speak to the spirit of the old American conundrum of supporting freedom versus protecting what we see as our interests. President Nixon saw the Liberation War was as a strategic move on the part of India to neutralize the threat of West Pakistan. Nixon was eager to capitalize on our brand-new friendship with China to halt the spread of Soviet influence in the region. As I read President Nixon’s take on all that was going on in Bangladesh, I was shocked that few in Delhi, Beijing (then Peking), Moscow or Washington even seemed to care what the people of East Pakistan were suffering.

For the sake of justice, and to give some global perspective to those readers who think that justice wasn’t served, and a life sentence for Mollah may be lenient, please consider the following “dirty laundry”:

1947: Greece: Military dictatorship supported by the US comes to power in Greece. They stay in power until 1974. In 1975, members of the Junta are sentenced to death for High Treason, but the sentences are commuted to life imprisonment. The government then attempts to grant amnesty to the traitors, but the Greek people will not have it, and life imprisonment is the sentence imposed.

1953, Iran: Mohammed Mossadegh threatens to nationalize British Petroleum interests in Iran. The US supports the overthrow of Mossadegh and he is replaced by Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. The regime’s secret police, SAVAK, regularly tortures and murders any Iranian deemed “Enemies of the State.” Pahlavi rules as Shah of Iran until he is overthrown in 1979. He dies in exile, never standing trial for treason or crimes against humanity.

1954, Guatemala: After a democratic government is deposed by the CIA, Efraín Ríos Montt eventually comes to power in Guatemala. In a non-binding tribunal conducted by the Roman Catholic Church, Montt is convicted of massacres, rape, and torture, and for carrying out a policy of genocide of the indigenous people. He is purported to be responsible for the death of over 200,000 of his countrymen. He gained immunity, and is only now, in 2013, standing trial.

1959, Haiti: US helps install “Papa Doc” Duvalier. He and his son, “Baby Doc,” initiate a reign of terror in which over 100,000 people are killed. The Haitian government has recently put Baby Doc on trial for corruption only, despite the carnage of his regime. Duvalier may, in fact, dismiss all cases against him. The former dictator lives freely and opulently in Haiti.

Dictatorships in Brazil and the Dominican Republic, killed thousands. No one was ever brought to justice. Chilean Dictator Pinochet, Indonesia’s Suharto, Pol Pot, and Milosevic all escaped punishment of any sort.

A paranoid world gave power to many murderers in the name of the Cold War. Thousands suffered. Hardly any of these monsters were ever punished for their crimes. In light of these facts, the fact that Mollah was even brought to trial is remarkable considering the easy fate of some of the most of notorious war criminals in post Cold War history.

Photo: bdnews24.com
Photo: bdnews24.com

This is not by any means a call to placate those who are outraged by the verdict. Something exciting is happening inside Bangladesh, and the verdict is simply a catalyst, but the people must exercise extreme caution not to allow passion to trample the fundamental underpinnings of democracy.

* * *

Last week, Khaleda Zia lashed out against the Sheikh Hasina government in a blatant case of hanging her dirty laundry in public. Her missive in the Washington Post revealed top-level Bangladeshi politics for what they seem to have become: a petty two-family squabble. Her call to the international community to impose travel sanctions and other punitive measures on her own country seems to indicate that she would rather Bangladesh suffer economically than to see her opponent continue to hold power. In trying to rally political support, Khaleda Zia invites foreign intervention. This is a dangerous precedent, and invites precisely the sort of post-colonial meddling in which we in the West are all too eager to engage (the exact sort of thing I hope I’m not doing right now).

The AL and the BNP are asking the people of Bangladesh to choose between two ‘royal’ families, and the frustration of the Bangladeshi people is palpable even from the other side of the world…

…Even if neither of the bickering princesses are aware of it.

Most people not in power know what those in power often forget — that the laws of a nation should govern its people impartially, allowing equal access to power to the greatest number of people. The purpose of leadership should always be to serve the interests of law and order. The purpose of law and order should never be to keep the leadership in power.

The squabbling must end, but it cannot be the international community that ends it.

That job falls to the only people with the best interests of Bangladesh foremost in their hearts: The Bangladeshi people themselves.

The recent protests amount to something more than just an angry outburst over a single verdict. They represent a vote of no confidence for the two parties that have paralyzed the progress of your nation. The anger is justified, but I think that before hanging all suspected collaborators, or banning political parties in the basis of religion, activists should take a moment to understand the implication when it comes to the practice of democracy.

A person accused is not a person convicted, and crowd-sourced justice just creates a different sort of reign of terror. An angry collective mob can become just as brutal as a dictator or a thug.

A free and vibrant democracy relies upon fixed and predictable laws that are obeyed by all parties. It relies upon the confidence the people feel that these laws will protect their rights, no matter what political opinion they espouse. It depends upon a system of justice that is unswayed by popular opinion and unmoved by the demands of the masses.

Freedom is never served by indiscriminately hanging things in public…

… be they monsters, or dirty laundry.

Frank Domenico Cipriani writes a weekly column in the Riverside Signal called “You Think What You Think And I’ll Think What I Know.” He is also the founder and CEO of The Gatherer Institute — a not-for-profit public charity dedicated to promoting respect for the environment and empowering individuals to become self-taught and self-sufficient. His most recent book, “Learning Little Hawk’s Way of Storytelling”, teaches the native art of oral tradition storytelling.

31 Responses to “Hanging dirty laundry”

  1. Akash

    Yes, the Shahbag Protest/Vigil should stay outside the political fray, and no single party should coopt the spirit of the movement. People seem to forget it is the ruling party that set up the tribunal and had the gall to arrest those politico stalwarts for the war crime charges, when these very same leaders enjoyed all the facilities of a liberated Bangladesh from previous regimes. Even if the tribunal has faltered, it is proceeding onwards. There are many who in the garb of nitpicking what’s wrong and what’s right with the tribunal would really like to see it collapse. In my view, what Shahbag is demanding is the cleansing of the deformation of history, of restoring the national chariot on the track of 1971, Frank, do note: The politics of Bangladesh is not simply a bickering between two royal families. Every world newspapers seem to pipe that phrase. Each “family” is an emblem of a political ideology. One has remained closer to the spirit of 1971 for which the youth in Shahbag is demonstrating, and the other has used all its means to derail, deform and descrate that. The youth in Shahbag is saying, Enough!

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani

      Don’t you think it may be time for a third position, for a new political ideology unfettered by the baggage that goes with that older ideology? I think that’s what Shahbag might offer- a new way, and a breaking of the logjam, not merely an agreement with a preexisting political ideology.

  2. Dio Haque

    Hello Frank!

    Appreciate that you hav the touched upon the geopolitical aspects of the liberation war, very few of our people are aware of these crucial facts, history has constantly been distorted by our leaders for their own benefit.

    Im sure you have realized by now that we are a very emotional nation. And 71 for us was more than just a physical war. We won the battle for the land, but the battle for the mind left us devastated. The greatest minds of the nation, our teachers, doctors, engineers, artists, writers were mercilessy and calculatedly eliminated to cripple us forever, victims of the bigger global game that you mention. Now we are left capable of articulating our deep frustration in only two words, ‘fashi chai’, and you for one will understand that it represent the outburst of the collective trauma and shame that we suffered as a nation. Not only were our intellectuals killed, our women were raped and our infrastructures destroyed, Bangladeshis also suffered the humiliation of the Pakistan army and their local collaborators getting away unscathed for the war crimes perpetrated against civilians, all manifestations of global political dictates.

    The same geopolitical forces are still at play, and Bangladesh still remains important to global powers. Our history is a violent one, endless episodes of repression, cold blooded murder, political pettyness and blatant looting of the general people, all subject to powers and interests bigger than us.

    Somehow real freedom was never won. Its in the collective conscious of the people (and this is a huge amount of people im talking about!) that we let murders and criminals walk free amongst us, without any punishment, and we let our leaders do anythin they want, thus resulting in a sense of impunity. You can even get away with murder, as long as you know the right people.

    The people are not just calling for the death of one person. They are calling for an end to an episode that they have been fooled with for 42 years. You only begin to understand the extent of it when you consider that personalities and values who were against the creation of the state have been allowed to become important political and cultural forces (and they say we dont understand democracy!), leaving a nation with a very confused and contradicting sense of itself and its values.

    What makes this nation so unique is that, from time to time, despite all the strong external pressures, we have managed to stand up to the big powers at play, and claim our own stake in our future. And for the first time, unprecedented in our history, we have thrown down the gauntlet to our own leaders, who have for far too long looked after interests other than of their own people.

    Sorry for the history lesson, but i have always had a keen interest in global political history, as well as that of my own country. Wanted to fill you in on the local cultural and social perspectives as well, hope you get a deeper understanding of where we are now.

    If i had to put it bluntly to you, what you see now is the start of a cultural conflict, one to reclaim our identity. The outcome of this very well might end up deciding if Bangladesh is truly the moderate and tolerant nation that we believe it is.

    And it starts with a call for an intolerant verdict (although one within constitutional limits) against the most intolerant forces our country has known.

    • Frank D. Cipriani

      Thank you so much for that eloquent and clear response. It really requires me to think and re-think the whole situation. We have been writing about this, to a person, for over a week now, and it seems like the tipping point. Is this the Bangladeshi Spring? Whatever the outcome for the one individual, I hope that this movement has the power to break the long cycle of which you speak.

  3. russel

    Blabbering can’t be a solution to a serious problem. So we are protesting peacefully not forcefully. Our heart gets dampened whenever we see someone commenting disgracefully and not truly understanding the fact that we are facing today. We want to see, all Razakars punished. We won’t let our martyrs’ blood go in vain.

    Frank, please take our problem seriously. It’s a demonstration of the new generation. And we can change everything.

    • Frank D. Cipriani

      Russel, beyond seriously, I take it with so much hope. This isn’t just about punishment, it’s about rebirth. You say it, and I believe it. You can change everything!

  4. Bashir

    Frank Cipriani is a friend of Bangladesh. And we have learned this from the articles he has so far written. He is an American, I am sure a proud one, but also an enlightened American who has the guts to criticize and condemn if and when his government does anything wrong. It’s not that Frank rejoiced when the Iraqi or Afghan children were being bombed. I am sure he was and will be one of those Americans to protest against any injustice be it committed by others or his own government. This much we have realized after reading his articles for all these months.

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani

      I firmly believe that an important part of the Democratic process is to hold our government accountable. Thank you for those kind words. I despise the Patriot Act, and do condemn the extrajudicial drone killings. I don’t like intervention. It hardly ever leads to positive change. I appreciate your reading all these months, Bashir.

  5. Brave Bangladeshi

    “anyone who disagrees will be branded a traitor”. Anyone who has disagreed has been virulently branded a traitor since this Shahbag protest began. A campaign on the unquestioning and uncritical premise of “you’re either with us or against us” can hardly represent a call for justice.

    • Frank D. Cipriani

      Let’s hope that this protest allows for differences of opinion. If it does not, it will inevitably fall apart, because ultimately any thinking person will always have points of disagreement with any other thinking person.

    • Faisal

      No Shahbagh protest is not like you put it here. You are trying portray as if the demands the Shabagh mass is making, a wrong one. It isn’t. In any way. The mass is demanding justice and punishment for the war criminals, the very known ones, who have killed and maimed and raped and helped the Pakistani army to carry out the genocide in 1971. If you see anything wrong in it, then you really don’t have any right to call yourself a Bangladeshi.

      And also for Frank’s benefit: though the protesters in Shahbagh is chanting for death sentence for Quader Mollah, it’s not that they have become a blood thirsty group. People were shocked to their core when a known war criminal like him didn’t get the highest punishment. And also life imprisonment in Bangladesh means 14 years in jail. How can a war criminal who has killed 400 and more people, innocent people, serve only 14 years in jail? And if the political regime changes then there is every possibility that he will get out of jail as a hero. How can the people of Bangladesh accept a verdict like this? So people are protesting for change so that justice is ensured. And that’s the ultimate and main message and goal of this movement.

    • Anwar A. Khan

      Dear All,

      During our liberation war of independence of 1971, I was a college student. During those hard times, Jamaat-e-Islami’s Al-Badrs’ concentration camp was not very far from our residence situated at Kishoreganj Town (Now Kishoreganj District). Duk-bunglow (now the District Council Building), the Pakistan army’s local head quarters was also the same distance from our house. Being an eye witness, I am now giving hereunder a brief account and at the end, I shall make a few comments:

      1.Professor Mahtabuddin was the Jamaat-e-Islami Chief of the then Kishoreganj Sub-Division (now District). I saw him many times in my own eyes that he had been encouraging the Al-Badrs to kill the innocent people. Everyday, he used to come to the Al-Badrs concentration camp situated at the Bunglow of the then Kishoreganj Railway Station Master ( after forcibly driven away the Station Master and his family from his allotted quarter) to boost them up to kill more and more people in the name of religion-Islam. The entire Al-Badr and Al-shams, the killing outfit Jamaat-e-Islami throughout the Kishoreganj District, was under his operational command.

      2. One afternoon, some time in August, 1971 an innocent boy was caught by the Al-Badr gangsters. He was inhumanely tortured on the main road at broad day light near the Kishoreganj Railway station; he was bayonetted, blood was coming out from his lower part of the belly, he was groaning, he was tied with strong ropes behind a Rickshaw putting his two legs upward. All these atrocities they committed pronouncing “Naraye Takbir, Allah Huakbar.” He was forced to say “ Pakistan Zindabad” but he did never say so. Rather, he repeatedly said “Joy Bangla.” Then a microphone was fitted with that Rickshaw and then these creatures of hell made campaigns throughout the town showing that poor dying boy that the same dire consequences would happen with those who would be Mukti Bahini (liberation fighters) or their supporters. And thus announcements were made all over Kishoreganj Town showing this dying poor boy. It created a tremendous panic in the Town. Prof. Mahatab came, saw him and with a great smile applauded his accomplices (Al-Badrs), asked them to make all-out efforts to catch similar such people and encouraged them to eliminate the so-called enemies of their beloved Pakistan in such a brutal or the other ways. The boy then died a martyred death for the cause of this motherland. His body was refused for burial and allowed the decomposed body to eat by the vultures, jackals and dogs.

      3. I shall now narrate another ghastly incident. One afternoon in 1971 (possibly in September), I was passing through the main road from Kishoreganj Railway Station to Newtown area, when I reached in front of the house of Advocate Emdad Mia (situated just beside the main road), I found that some members of Al-Badr were pronouncing “Naraye Takbir, Allah Hu-akbar” and simultaneously after inhumanely beating forcibly made a boy to lie down on the grass beside the main road and slaughtered that boy with a big knife like as we usually sacrifice the cows on the Eid-ul-Azha day. The two pieces of the dead body were then thrown into the marshy land beside the road and allowed for eating by the vultures, jackals and dogs

      4.The river Narasunda is nearby to our house at Kishoreganj. During the months of August-up to early December, 1971, I saw many young people were inhumanely tortured and being taken blind-folded near to the bank of that river, brutally shot them to death pronouncing “Naraye Takbir, Allah Huakbar” and then kicked them off to the Narasunda River. No dead was permitted for burial by them.

      5.They were directly involved in rape, arson and looting and burning of houses of innumerable people. I saw how they helped supplying women-folk to the local army head-quarters at kishoreganj.

      6.On the morning of 17.12. 1971 (Kishoreganj Town was liberated on that morning), I entered into that Concentration Camp of Al-Badrs along with some of my friends and found its floor with ankle deep thick human blood. One can easily imagine how and what was the extent of torture done on those un-armed and innocent human beings in this concentration camp by the Jamaat’s killing squad-Al-Badrs. Those helpless people could never go back to their parents.

      Comments :

      1.I have cited here only a few incidents only.

      2.Jamaat-e-Islami, Al-Badr and Al-Shams played the major role in bringing about the human tragedy of the highest magnitude in 1971.

      3.Leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, it’s the then student wing-Islami Chhatra Sangha (now Islami Chhatra Shibir) and their killing outfits- Al-Badr and Al-shams are all congenital liars-pathological liars.

      4. One has to become a human being before he wants to be a Musssalman/Muslim but they are just beasts, worst creatures of the hell. Same thing has been repeating by the same ugky force now.

      5. They are all enemies against humanity. They and their accomplices can do anything ugly for their own interests.

      6. They are just ugly religion traders because whenever they murdered our innocent people, they used religion- :Allah Hu Akbar”; “Naraye Takbir” and so on.

      7.No one should have any sympathy for them. But I reiterate that they are just religion traders and congenital liars; they are mass murderers, looters, miscreants and what not.

      8. They all deserve capital punishment because of the magnitude of crimes and sins they committed during our people’s war of independence for Bangladesh in 1971.

      9. Jamaat-e-Islami, as a political party, as an organization and above all, its leaders are all war crimes criminal.

      10. No compromise; no negotiation is possible with those who brought untold sufferings to our people, those who looted our valuables, those who burnt our houses, those who raped our millions of sisters and mothers, those who killed millions of our people. THERE IS NO SCOPE OF DISAGREEMENT IN RESPECT OF JAMAAT-E-ISLAMI.

      11. I want capital punishment of them all. Jamaat-e-Islami, as a political party be brought to book and banned.

      12. I am now close to 60. I did never do politics and shall not do politics in future also. In my 5 times prayer, I pray to Allah so that He gives capital punishment to these worst creatures of the hell.

      • Frank Domenico Cipriani

        This is horrible. Absolutely unspeakable horror. The guilty must be brought to justice. It cannot be guilt through association. The actual murderers should be brought to justice. It seems strange to me that the government botched the case and now seems anxious to embrace the movement, even though if it had done its prosecutorial job in the first place, your prayers would have been answered.

  6. Brave Bangladeshi

    Meanwhile, the ruling regime has shown full support to Shahbag protest, while brutally curtailing and cracking down on opposition rallies using the police and notorious RAB. Hasina has openly expressed support and has installed CCTV cameras at Shahbag to protect these protesters as they sing her tunes. Meanwhile, students of the opposition convalesce in hospitals after being shot by the police for attempting to protest

    • Afia Shikder

      Yes the ruling party is supporting this movement because it’s the movement of the youth seeking justice. It’s not that the ruling party is dictating the movement or the judges to change the law. Expressing solidarity with something that is just is and should be always welcome.

  7. Brave Bangladeshi

    Bangladesh Shahbag movement has led to attack and arson against institutions run by the opposition Jamaat, such as Islami Bank, and also newspapers that have dared challenge the Awami League authorities and report on the tribunal’s shortfalls, such as Amar Desh, Naya Diganta and Sangram. These newspapers have also been targeted by the authorities for police raids and shutdowns. If this is the intolerant and violent language of the progressive secular politics of which Shahbag speaks, then we should all be concerned. Such attacks against institutions are a curtailment of freedom of speech and are base vandalism. This is extremism in the name of secularism.

  8. kalpana

    I have every sympathy for Mr. Franc.We are in the same footing as he is in US. We cannot do anything to prevent our entrencht powerful establishments from doing many unethical acts which we do not like to happen!! US being number one world power its effects are felt globally.
    I have every goodwill for the youth at Shahbagh. They are enjoying a ‘carnival’ atmosphere supported by the party in power and not opposed by the main opposition.It is equated with the days of 1952 ad 1971. But those were the days when we were faced by colonial Pakistani government’s law enforcers and army. We attended despite the every chance that people attending the meetings and processions would be gunned down by those brutal forces as proved in the night of 25th March 1971.
    We have not solved our problem of exploitation of our nation(now by our own people instead of the British and Pakistani). Main purpose of our gaining independence from British and Pakistan was to prevent exploitation. But Alas!What we have done!
    Could the this new generation change the situation after their forefathers had given them a independent BANGLDESH.

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani

      Thank you, Kalpana.
      Let us hope that the youth in both countries, and maybe some creaky old guys like me as well can help usher in an era where the entrenched are unentrenched.

      • Frank Domenico Cipriani

        And when I say that, I mean me acting here, voting third party in the US. I feel like the spread of technology has led to the possibility of new power structures the world over.

  9. hey there!

    You go worry about your own democracy, and your own dire problems in your own damn country, we will worry about ours. As if the American people truly comprehend what Justice really is, with its government continually profiling, trapping and arresting people without warrants; and then torturing, maiming, assassinating, or imprisoning them for life with micky-mouse trials, with the power of Patriot Acts and National Defense Authorization Acts, is the kind of rule of law and justice everyone else should emulate!

    How do you even get up in the morning and get the idea of giving a foreign nation your faulty advice, when your own nation is imploding into smitherenes and being brought to its knees by the actions of its own ignorant people and its own greedy government? I suppose you were just sitting around reading International Law in 2003 when every bloody American was jumping up and down in joy, cheering with the mob mentality to invade Iraq and decimate its population?

    Keep your sermons to yourself, or preach it in your own country. The last thing we need is an American with crocodile tears pretending to understand our problems. We can take care of ourselves as long as you keep your dirty hands out of our business, and stop running your mouths. Instead, you should just go work on stopping your own govenment’s genetic engineering and pharmaceutical experiments on your own indegenous populations in the American Indian Reserves, and on the American population as a whole.

    It’s just unbelievable that you still had to go through the charade of making at least some Americans look heroic by adding that your diplomats in Dhaka were holding out the lamp of morality out of their butts in 1971! You really had to do that, man? When do you guys get off from your propaganda?… Please help yourself with some foramlin-laden meals while you’re in Dhaka, and please don’t let the door hit you hard on your way out! Thank you!

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani

      Sometimes distance lends perspective. Perhaps that’s as true for Bangladeshis writing about the US.

      This having been said, not all of us supported the Patriot Act, the torture, the fact that Bush invaded a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. Not all of us support the extrajudicial drone killings of people, including US citizens under Obama.

      The fact that some American diplomats in Dhaka stood publicly against US policy needs to be acknowledged because it happens so rarely, because especially during the Cold War, many could have lost their jobs and have been blacklisted because of it.

      Some of us here will continue to hold our nation to the standards it proports to espouse, and will not turn our heads when it comes to the injustices, the profiling, the treatment of Native Americans, the abuses of the Patriot Act, the attempts to stifle freedom on the Internet, not to mention the “Monsantoization” of agriculture. Many of us voted for a third party candidate in the last Presidential election.

      However, you open that door, that same one that might hit me on the way out, when your own opposition leader comes seeking support from these very wolves you denounce, inviting us to, as you put it “keep our dirty hands” in your business.

      Where exactly in the article do I disagree with you?
      1. I agree that my opinion might be interventionist.
      2. I count other examples of US intervention, and cite even our own diplomats as making almost the exact claims you yourself make.

      At the end, I do stand by my two opinions, 1) that the rule of law should protect the minority and that 2) It is a strategic error (which I repeated, ironically) for those that politically oppose the actions of the ruling party to publish their grievances in a newspaper overseas. In my case, my airing of “dirty laundry” may lead to an angry letter. In Khaleda Zia’s case, well, I could have given even more examples of where Foreign leaders asking for intervention(both US and Soviet) has led, but my word count ran long.

  10. KC Tan

    While I can understand your argument of how rule of law should be above rule of the mob, you assume that the institutions of law in Bangladesh have not been influenced politically in the issuing of the life sentence verdict. This, unfortunately, is most likely not the case as politics have always influenced the judiciary in Bangladesh, which is why impunity is rampant be it a corruption scandal or a war crimes trial.
    Both major political parties have a vested interest in looking like they support the conviction of war criminals, yet at the same time realize that they cannot alienate a political party (Jamaat-e-Islami) that both of them have sought for political support at various times throughout the meager years of post-independence.
    The Shahbagh protest is not a call for blood by an unruly mob, as attested by the peacefulness of the movement that has never been seen before in Bangladesh. It is a statement of understanding that a broken judiciary has laid down a verdict that will enable ANY ruling party (be it Awami League or BNP) to allow the convicted to go “scott free” at a later time, if it will help increase their political influence when they need it. This is a critical year in Bangladesh because it is an election year, so the verdict is a calculated move supported by the AL, and the slow public support for Shahbagh is a calculated move from BNP’s part.
    The examples you provided for the dictators in Europe and Central/South America actually reinforce the fact that flawed judiciaries can be easily co-opted to allow injustice to reign. While we can be idealistic in our view that law and order should be above so-called “crowd source justice”, can we also be blind to the fact that law and order in Bangladesh has been corrupted by political interests as well?

    • KC Tan

      By the way, the quick passing of the ICT law amendment in so-called “response” to the cry of the Shahbagh public again can be seen through a political lens, in that the ruling party realizes that this issue has now tipped against their favour in having a verdict that can be appealed in the future.
      Furthermore, they now also have an “out” to go after an opposing political party coalition, but not necessarily take the blame (in case they need to form their own coalition at a later date), since they can say they were just responding to the public’s outcry.
      The zero-sum game continues.

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani

      I regret the words “angry collective mob”. In fact, from all I’ve read, this movement is not that at all.

      The prosecution fumbled the case. Was this fumbling intentional? I know that in our own country, many times during the Civil Rights movement cases were similarly, and often intentionally mishandled.

      Because no man can be tried twice for the same crime, perhaps a tactic that would serve the cause of justice would be to indict Abdul Quader Mollah for other crimes for which he still hasn’t stood trial.

      So much is fishy here… The Skype call, the botched trial, people understandably want justice. So I wonder what the government fears. I must confess ignorance on these matters, and would welcome you to please enlighten me. Were the killers of Nur Hoosain or the others who gave their lives in defense of Democracy ever brought to justice?

      I understand what the fear is. This life sentence will go on for as long as people notice, the guilty party will still be able to pull strings while under comfortable arrest, and when the political winds shift, he will go free.

      But the question remains: Is this one man, this individual case, worthy of a guilty verdict and a hanging on the strength of the evidence and its own merits? I don’t know the answer to that question. What I do know is that this verdict seems like the last straw for a considerable number of sober, educated, peace-loving Bangladeshis who know they deserve better than the political circus they have heretofore been subjected to. I hope that out of this, an alternative road, a third party can arise. I have the same hopes of a third party for my own nation, but I think we here will have to wait longer for that to happen than you will.

  11. Engr Mahfuz

    Insight is very important for thinkers..Well written advise…Appreciate your research and thoughtfull remarks…Coutry need more exposure to understand the true democracy.. hope present world of cyber facility will make those young stars brighter to dig the depth of not taking the law in hand…As deligence of true information, delicacy of democracy and impartial justice above all for all ultimately stabilizing the nation…One of the poor GDP rate nation of low income need those for the safe and sound economic environment, moral,and ethics to stand against all sorts of corruptions which are massively dragging down the nation in every way such Padma bridge lost interst loan of WB is cancelled …. Need delegence in all froms of politics to implication of tollerance to opposition views or reviews and those to the every day life in each application rutines of law and orders of the country . Regards

    • Frank Domenico Cipriani

      Thank you, thank you. I appreciate your sentiments.

      In one sense, the essence of Democracy is people taking the law into their own hand. I do hope that whatever happens, as you say, tolerance for opposition views will be the order of the day. The Bangladeshis of my acquaintance are excellent debaters, firm in their opinions, well-informed, but will at least entertain the opinions of others. I think that lively debate can lead to creative compromises as long as all sides are willing to see the best interest of the country as a whole. I think that both major parties have lost that ability, as they have here, by the way.

      It must be frustrating to have so much potentially positive energy bottlenecked by a political bickering at the top that holds back such promise of greatness.

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