MOSCOW, December 2 (Sputnik) — Judges from a special war crimes court ruled that journalist David Bergman has “hurt the feelings of the nation” in his blog and two other articles and has ordered him to pay a 5,000 taka ($65) fine or go to prison for a week, reports AFP.
Bergman was accused of raising questions regarding the official death toll of three million during the country's 1971 independence war.
Lawyer Abul Kalam Azad, who filed the petition against Bergman, told AFP the judgment was “fair and right. No one has the right to question the three million death tolls in the 1971 independence war. It is a settled issue,” he added.
The 49-year-old Bergman is an editor of local English-language daily New Age and also writes for Britain's Daily Telegraph; he has been living in Bangladesh for more than a decade. He is married to a top human rights lawyer. Bergman also won a British television award in 1995 for a documentary exposing alleged war criminals who had taken refuge in the United Kingdom.
Delivering the verdict in the capital Dhaka, presiding judge Obaid ul Hassan told the courtroom that “freedom of expression can be exercised in good faith and public interest”.
“David Bergman neither has good faith nor an issue of public interest,” the judge added.
The International Crimes Tribunal, a national court which has found several top opposition leaders guilty of mass murder, asked the government to inquire into Bergman's reporting. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has stated that the investigation of bloodshed into Bangladesh's war upon partition with Pakistan demands that criminals be brought to justice, even four decades later, reports AFP.
On the contrary, her critics say that the government has intentionally exaggerated the death toll as a way of intimidating her opponents. Critics had accused Pakistani troops of most war crimes when the two countries were at conflict in 1971. Hasina's government, however, says Bangladeshi militants were behind some of the most brutal killings, including the massacre of intellectuals. Estimates say the actual death toll of war dead is in the hundreds of thousands.
Bergman's lawyer Mustafizur Rahman said the court verdict was a big disappointment but there was “no scope” to launch an appeal.