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Bangladesh court delays British reporter verdict

December 1, 2014

A Bangladesh court on Monday delayed its verdict in the case of a British journalist who was charged with contempt after questioning the official death toll from the 1971 independence war.

The hearing had been listed for Monday, but lawyers who showed up at the court were told it would instead be held a day later.

No reason was given for the delay.

“The International Crimes Tribunal said the verdict will be on December 2,” defence lawyer Mustafizur Rahman told AFP.

David Bergman was charged with contempt of court after he questioned the government’s assertion that three million people died in the war, in a 2011 post on his blog about the International Crimes Tribunal.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, whose late father was Bangladesh’s independence hero, has justified the war crimes trials on the grounds that the scale of the bloodshed demands that perpetrators be brought to justice.

Most independent estimates say the true toll is likely to be in the hundreds of thousands.

The case is seen as a test of the country’s commitment to free speech.

Bergman is currently in Dhaka, where he resides, and is not being held in detention. It is unclear what sentence he faces if found guilty.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.