Wednesday, April 27, 2016

'Plot to kill Joy' - The article that refused to publish

Toufique Khalidi, Editor in Chief
Yesterday, I was told that had refused to publish an op-ed on the the alleged 'plot to kill' the prime minister's son.

My article was written in response to the news website's own op-ed which had criticised my article written for The Wire, as being 'selective’, ‘misleading’ and ‘confusing’.

'Dear David,' the rejection e-mail stated. 'The editorial board has decided to not carry your piece. We hope you will continue writing for us in the future'. No reason was given.

When I submitted the article on Monday I had every expectation it would be published. Bdnews had previously carried another article critical of me - does it seem this is becoming a bit of a habit? - and it published my rejoinder, no questions asked. However, this time, I was told on Tuesday that 'The editorial board is in the process of deciding whether to publish your rebuttal.' I then responded by saying that I was happy to remove the last paragraph as I thought perhaps 'the editorial board' would find it untoward. This morning I heard that website would not carry the piece at all.

So here it is - in full (including the last para). In a separate post I will write why bdnews24 might have refused to publish it -but would be interested to hear any of your ideas why this might be the case.


Omission and conjecture: A response to Shah Ali Farhad

David Bergman

It takes quite some nerve to write an article about the sentencing of Rizve Ahmed and two other men for bribery offences in the United States and fail to mention the most relevant part of the judge’s ruling - and then to go on to claim that my article is ‘selective’ and its title ‘misleading’ and ‘confusing’.

But that is what Shah Ali Farhad - Assistant Secretary (Central Sub Committee) of Bangladesh Awami League who is employed at a pro-Awami League research organization – has managed to do in his recent article.

Lets start with Farhad’s problems with the title of my article in The Wire, ‘US Court Dismissed Claim of Plot to Injure Bangladesh PM Son.’

Farhad argues that the title ‘tends to denote that a “claim” was made in court about the plot to abduct and kill Sajeeb Wazed by the US government which was then dismissed by the US federal court,’ which he claims did not happen.

Well that in effect is exactly what happened.

As part of its written submission to the court seeking sentencing enhancements, the Department of Justice argued that one of Rizve Ahmed’s objectives in seeking the documents was to physically harm Wazed, and it set out its evidence in support of that claim. (It should be noted that the Department of Justice never claimed at any point in its submission that there was an intention ‘to kill’).

During the hearing the Judge Vincent L. Briccetti considered this evidence and then explained why he thought that it did not support the conclusion claimed by the Department of Justice. (To see the detail of the Department of Justice evidence and the court’s view on it, read ‘Evidential Chasm: The Case Against Journalists Accused of Plotting to Kill Bangladesh PM’s Son’ also published in the The Wire.)

The Judge said, ‘I don't believe that there's sufficient evidence that [Ahmed] really did seek to kidnap and physically harm [Wazed]’.

He also said that on the basis of all ‘the the text messages and the other things that I've seen,’ it was his view that Ahmed’s seeking the confidential FBI information was not about causing Wazed any physical harm but ‘about furthering Ahmed's political aims, getting confidential information to expose what Ahmed apparently thought was corrupt behavior by the ruling party and otherwise embarrass [Wazed].’

Indeed, according to Department of Justice’s submission, the key information obtained from the FBI was, and I quote, “an internal memorandum (the ‘FBI Memo’) that referred to Individual 1 and a sum of $300 million, and a confidential report, known as a Suspicious Activity Report (the ‘SAR’) that also referred to Individual 1.” Individual 1 refers to Wazed.

In his article, Farhad does not refer to or quote a word from the reasons given by the Judge for believing that the evidence was not sufficient to support the Department of Justice’s conclusions. Nor does he quote anything from court’s ruling on this matter.

Since, in relation to the Bangladesh authority’s claim about a ‘plot to kill’, this is the single most relevant part of the sentencing judgment, his failure to do so is bizarre, to say the very least.

Farhad is entitled to disagree with the Judge’s ruling. Indeed, he could well have written an article setting out why he thought the judge was wrong in coming to his conclusions (though interestingly he did not).

However, Farhad is not entitled to set out the ‘evidence’ in one long section of his article, and then seek to pretend to his readers that the US district judge made no negative ruling about it.

Having totally ignored the judgment of the District Court judge, near the end of his article, Farhad then writes the following passage, ‘There should remain no credible doubt as to whether or not there was any cross-border conspiracy to obtaining confidential information on Sajeeb Wazed with the aim of abducting and harming/killing him in the US in light of the information already available in the public domain.’

How he comes to that conclusion - with ‘no credible doubt’, no less - I don’t know.

If we put to one side the US Judge’s comments about the evidence, there remains a huge chasm between the evidence that is currently in the public domain – concerning Ahmed’s criminal purchase of the FBI information, his sale of that information to a journalist (possibly Shafik Rehman), the meeting between the corrupt FBI officer and some Bangladesh associates, and some evidence that Ahmed sought to use the information to harm Wazed – and the claim that there is a ‘cross-border conspiracy’ with ‘the aim of abducting and harming/killing [Wazed] in the US’?

The US Department of Justice may well have further evidence that is not in the public domain which closes this evidential chasm – but at the moment on the basis of evidence in the public domain to make such a conclusion is, one has to say, politically motivated conjecture.

I would suggest that Farhad give up his day job at his Awami League think tank, and look into opportunities with the Bangladesh police, where – with his abilities in analyzing court records and assessing evidence – I am sure he will make a perfect fit.


  1. Nothing unusual for Mr. Khalidi to veto this piece of yours. He is looking after corporate and self-interests and survival. But that does not stop him from preaching about his team's neutrality and objective journalism. He is just another cheerleader for the policies of the ruling elites.

  2. Nothing unusual for Mr. Khalidi to veto this piece of yours. He is looking after corporate and self-interests and survival. But that does not stop him from preaching about his team's neutrality and objective journalism. He is just another cheerleader for the policies of the ruling elites.

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