Attention of this Mission has been drawn to continued reports on controversial writer Ms. Taslima Nasrinn published in your esteemed daily. The actual facts of the case are not being correctly presented, but highly emotive and extraneous issues not relevant to the case are being highlighted in the Press and media for quite sometime which is being felt to be a deliberate attempt to malign Bangladesh.
The correct situation is that a criminal case has been filed against Ms. Taslima Nasrinn under section 295(A) of Bangladesh Penal Code for her allcged deliberate and malicious public statements, outraging the religious feelings of the vast majority of the people of Bangladesh. – Section 295(A) of the Bangladesh Penal Code states: “Whoever with deliberate and malicious intentions of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of Bangladesh any words, either spoken or written, by visible representation insult or attempt to insult religious beliefs of that shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend upto two years or sine or both.”
She is now a fugitive and absconding from the due process of law. If she has not committed any criminal mischief, it is for her to prove her innocence before the court of law. She is seeking to capitalise external sympathy through a segment of the foreign Press and media instead of asking for legal remedy in our courts of law which are widely recognised to be fair and free.
Unlike many Western countries, Bangladesh does not have any blasphemy law. Our law under which she is being prosecuted is a secular law, which was enacted more than a hundred years ago, giving non-discriminatory protection to believers of all faiths. Her public statements are now under the scrutiny of our normal laws but some section of the Indian Press and media have been trying to create an impression that Ms. Taslima Nasrinn is being persecuted. Some people seem to be deliberately trying to create confusion about the clear line between legal prosecution and political persecution.
A section of the Indian Press and media are trying to create an impression that the Government of Bangladesh is not protecting the fundamental rights and freedom of speech of a citizen. This is not true.
The general limits of fundamental rights and freedom of speech of an individual are defined by the laws of a particular society. Rights cannot be taken as an open licence. Freedom is not anarchy. Every legal system defines the concept of balance between the rights of the society and rights of the individual. The Government of Bangladesh is extending the protection of the law to Taslima Nasrinn by seeking justifiability of her right to make the alleged public statements against Islam. It is only the court which can protect her against excesses of public wrath. But she has chosen not to avail herself of the protection offered by the due process of law.
It is also reported in the Press that Bangladesh Government is yielding to fundamentalist pressures which is again not based on facts. Actually, Bangladesh Government is acting in accordance with the secular law of the land. Such an interpretation is unfair as well as inconsistent with the facts of the case.
It was reported in the Press that Ms. Taslima Nasrinn is being prosecuted for her legitimate and lawful view on religion and sex which is again not correct. Prosecution under the law cannot be called persécution. She is entitled to her private views on any subiect as long as she does not transgress the limits of law. It is now for the court of law to judge whether her public statements tantamount to criminal conduct. She is obstructing the due process of law and to deflect public opinion from her criminal conduct, she is accusing the Government of persecution. Taslima is being tried under the law of the land. Since she is absconding and running away from the law, she is unable to claim legal protection.
There is also an apprehension that she may not get a fair trial in Bangladesh courts is not true. The courts of Bangladesh are widely recognised to be absolutely free, fair and independent. The past records of our courts would convince anyone about the prospects of a fair trail under the law.
On numerous occasions, it was reported in the Press that actions were not taken by the Bangladesh Government to prosecute those making unlawful death threats against Taslima. This is again not true. The fact is that a relation of Taslima has already lodged a complaint in a court in the city of Khulna. So, on the same issue more than one case is not necessary. Now, it is for the court to decide whether there is credible evidence to establish the alleged death threat against her by any individual or any group. Besides, the Government of Bangladesh in a recent Press release warned of legal action against any person or organisation issuing death threats which is a punshable offence under the law. It may be mentioned here that in Bangladesh, Opposition parties, Press and media and the intelligentia have by and large shown a wider understanding for the legal action by the State.
Therefore, I may like to conclude that by placing the issue before the court of law, the Government has not only given Ms. Taslima Nasrinn the full opportunity to seek protection of the due process of law but has also successfully persuaded the political and religious forces to respect and uphold the law of the land.
— Jahangir Saadat, Deputy High Commissioner of
Bangladesh, Calcutta (Courtesy: Amrita Bazar Patrika, July 15, 1994)
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