- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Angry in Bangladesh

Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Morshed Khan is angered by a U.S. decision to include Bangladeshis on an immigration blacklist and is letting everyone in Washington know it.

"We are completely shocked, disappointed, dismayed and frustrated by this move," he told Embassy Row yesterday.

Mr. Khan has talked to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who, he said, expressed opposition to Bangladesh's inclusion on a list of 25 predominantly Muslim nations whose male citizens are subjected to being fingerprinted, photographed and interviewed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The list applies to foreign citizens in the United States and those who travel here.

"Mr. Powell said Bangladesh is a role model for the Muslim world," Mr. Khan said.

The State Department faults Bangladesh for a poor record on human rights, chiefly because of police brutality. It, however, also praises the impoverished South Asian nation as "one of the most democratic states within the Muslim world."

Mr. Khan has also complained to the National Security Council and is finding support within Congress. Six Democrats, including members of the House International Relations and Judiciary committees, last week wrote Attorney General John Ashcroft, who oversees the INS, asking for justification for keeping Bangladesh on the list. Mr. Khan was to meet Mr. Ashcroft yesterday.

"They noted that we found an American Taliban but never a Bangladeshi Taliban," Mr. Khan said, referring to John Walker Lindh, who was apprehended with the Taliban in Afghanistan in November 2001.

Mr. Khan insists there is no terrorism in Bangladesh, although several news agencies and independent monitoring groups have reported on Islamic extremist groups in the country.

The South Asia Intelligence Review said Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network operated in Bangladesh last year. India has accused Bangladesh of sheltering Islamic militants who use the country as a base to mount cross-border attacks.

Mr. Khan said Bangladesh is a strong supporter of the United States in the war on terrorism and a contributor to peacekeeping forces of the United Nations in more than 20 countries.

He said his country is a vibrant democracy and has a culture of religious tolerance, unlike many of the other nations subject to the INS regulations. North Korea is the only non-Muslim nation included on the list.

"Taking Bangladesh off the list could prove this is not a religious issue," he said.

Kazakh conviction

American supporters of jailed Kazakh investigative journalist Sergei Duvanov, including his daughter Danissa, say they will continue to fight for his freedom after his conviction yesterday on highly disputed rape charges.

"We were not surprised by the verdict, because it was clear that the judge did not follow due process or accept any evidence that would have cleared my father's name," said Miss Duvanova, a political science student at Ohio State University, in a telephone interview with reporter David R. Sands.

"I am sure he will appeal it," she added.

Mr. Duvanov, 50, has been a harsh critic of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, publishing articles looking into corruption charges surrounding the authoritarian leader and his associates. He was arrested on charges of having raped a 14-year-old girl on the eve of a trip to the United States in October to discuss human rights and press freedoms in the oil-rich former Soviet republic.

He was given a 3½-year sentence at a hearing from which even his wife and family were barred.

Charles R. Both, a Washington attorney who has assisted Mr. Duvanov and other Kazakh opposition figures, said there was "a clear denial of due process throughout the trial."

He called the sentence "predictable, preposterous and pathetic."

The State Department, which had U.S. Embassy observers at the three-week trial in the Kazakh town of Kaskelen, also expressed concerns about the "lack of due process" in the case.

"If Mr. Duvanov decides to appeal the verdict, we hope that due process will be strictly followed in accordance with [Kazakh] law and international standards of justice and that the allegations of procedural violations in the first trial will be addressed," department spokeswoman Jo-Anne Prokopowicz said.

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