DHAKA (AFP) – A Bangladesh court on Tuesday found an award-winning British journalist guilty of contempt for questioning the official death toll of three million in the country’s 1971 independence war.
Judges from a special war crimes court ruled David Bergman’s blog in November 2011 had “hurt the feelings of the nation” and ordered him to pay a 5,000-taka ($65) fine or go to prison for seven days.
“Bergman has been found guilty of contempt of court. He is fined 5,000 taka or seven days imprisonment if he fails to pay the fine. And he is imprisoned until the rise of the court today,” prosecutor Tureen Afroz told AFP.
The case was seen as a test of the country’s commitment to free speech after Bergman cast doubt on the official version of one of the most contentious issues in Bangladesh’s history.
The judges said Bergman was unprofessional when he commented on the work of the International Crimes Tribunal, the domestic war court, which has found several top opposition leaders guilty of mass murder over their role in the conflict.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has justified the war crimes trials on the grounds that the scale of the bloodshed demands that perpetrators be brought to justice.
Most of the deaths have been blamed on troops loyal to the regime in Islamabad, which ruled over Bangladesh – then known as East Pakistan.