Sunday, September 4, 2016

Ten new false and defamatory claims by 'Benjamin Carver' of ABCnewsreportsnow

In April, I was  accused of receiving £50,000 from the opposition BNP (for writing about the journalist Shafique Rahman); in early August, it was claimed that I was receiving Tk35 crore (around £3.5 million) to free Hasnat Karim and Tahmid Khan, illegally detained by the state after the Holey Artisan Bakery attack, and then just a few days ago I was again accused of receiving Tk65 crore (around £6.5 million) from the Jamaat-e-Islami (for my writing on the International Crimes Tribunal).

They are all fictions – totally defamatory allegations without any basis in fact. Completely made up.

They show, the extraordinary lengths to which certain people will go to traduce a person’s reputation in an apparent attempt to stop them writing.

I have responded to the first two (see links above) and now it is to the most recent fiction published by that I am forced to turn my attention.

Whilst responding to this article may well be giving the claims and allegations far more dignity that they deserve, this defamatory report has been widely shared on social media so it is important to rebut the worst of the lies.

The article is authored by a 'Benjamin Carver', almost certainly a pseudonym. If so, it is not just the author’s name that is fake and untrue, but much of the substance of the article itself.

False Claim 1: “Minor role in the making of the documentary, 'The War Crimes Files'” 

The 'Carver' article states that I have ‘lied’ about my role in the documentary and alleges that I ‘was merely in charge of handling the camera equipment, ensuring timely staff meals, and doing any heavy lifting as required.’ It also claims that ‘Renowned Bangladeshi journalist Mr Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury’s contribution is also noteworthy in the making of the documentary.’ 

The War Crimes File was a documentary made by the production company Twenty Twenty Television (where I worked at the time) and broadcast on UK’s Channel Four Television in 2005. It was the first major investigative documentary uncovering alleged war crimes committed by three men, all of whom were in 1971 members of the Jamaat-e-Islami or its student wing, and at the time the film was made were residing in the UK. The documentary won a Royal Television Society Award, ‘Special Commendation’. 

I developed the concept and proposal for the documentary, and was in charge of all the investigation work that was carried out to make the film. The UK journalist Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury played no role whatsoever in the making of this film; he was just one amongst over hundred people interviewed as part of researching the background to the programme.

Gita Sahgal (who produced the film) Howard Bradburn (who directed it), the reporter Zulfikar Ali Manik (who was a member of the local research team), and Tanvir Mokammel (the well known Bangladeshi film Director, who was also a key member of our team) can all be contacted by anyone with queries about who played what role in making this film.

After the broadcast of the documentary on Channel Four television, I organized the production of a Bangla version of the film, which is now routinely broadcast on Bangladesh Television. It was narrated by the cultural activist and Awami League Member of parliament Asaduzzaman Noor and was edited by M Hamid, the former head of Bangladesh Television. They can also be contacted about my role.

Those working on the issue of war crimes in Bangladesh were very much aware of my role in the film - and were highly appreciative of it. In 2000 the Ekkatorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee, which has been the main organisation behind campaigning for war crimes trials, issued a certificate signed by Professor Kabir Chowdhury, (President of its Central Advisory Committee) and Shamsur Rahman (President of its Central Executive Committee). It stated.

‘David Bergman, who by now has become a household name in Bangladesh demonstrates his commitment to justice and correcting the wrongs of Bangladesh, which was a victim of the worse Genocide since the World War II that left three million Bengalees killed in just nine months of the Liberation war of 1971, had never lost hope of putting those involving in the senseless and systematic killing of men, women and children besides other atrocities on trial. They were reminded again by Mr David Bergman’s efforts of those nightmarish days. His film, “The War Crimes Files” opened a new chapter in Bangladesh’s history and boosted the campaign of the Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee to bring those responsible for the killings to justice as they fell in the category of war criminals.
Mr David Bergman told the world about those killings as a journalist whose heart had gone out for the Bengalees and possibly established one of the first visual documentary evidence of some of the collaborators of the Pakistani occupation army in 1971 who aided and abetted the killings in 1971. The Nirmul committee is eternally grateful to Mr David Bergman and is honoured to present this citation as a mark of its respect and in recognition of his contribution to the cause led by Jahanara Imam in bringing the killers and collaborators to justice.” (Emphasis added)
False Claim 2: “Suspected of stealing footage”

The article states that during the production of the film, ‘some of the footage of the documentary was stolen, for which David is still suspected today.’ 

No footage was ever stolen, and I have never before heard of any such allegation. This is entirely fictitious.

False Claim 3: "Sold footage to alleged war criminal Chowdhury Queen Uddin" 

The article states that, ‘In fact it is rumored that David sold said footage to Chowdhury Mueen uddin at a steep rate.’ 

There have never been any such ‘rumours’. I do not have access to any of the documentary footage – all of which is now in the possession of Channel Four Television. Moreover, I have never met Chowdhury Mueenuddin or had any relationship of any kind with him personally or thorough intermediaries – other than that of investigating him for alleged war crimes as set out in the film.

In fact I spent months on behalf of the documentary team to defend the film, when Chowdhury Mueenuddin brought libel proceedings in the UK – and I worked closely with the legal team to rebut his allegations. I also worked with individuals in Bangladesh and in the UK to request Scotland Yard to investigate the claims against Chowdhury Mueenuddin.

False claim 4: "Gaffar Chowdhury instigated marriage"

The article claims that Mr Gaffar Chowdhury said, 'I was the one who instigated [my wife] and David’s relationship.' 

This is perhaps the most ridiculous claim. This is entirely false. Mr Chowdhury had no role whatsoever in introducing me to Sara. 

False claim 5: "Received money from Jamaat/BNP" 

The article makes a series of false, and grossly defamatory allegations that I received money from the Jamaat. The title accuses me of being a 'hired henchman of war criminals’. The article goes onto claim that I ‘teamed up with Jamat and the BNP’, that I ‘spent considerable resources and Jamati funded money, deploying lobbyists and numerous representatives of the law, various organizations related to international law, its members, related journals, magazines, newspapers etc,’ and that I am ‘hoarding Tk 65 crore (roughly £6million) in Bangladeshi money from the representatives of convicted war criminal Mir Quasem.”

These are all fictitious and highly defamatory statements. They are completely untrue and have no basis in fact.

As I have stated in response to other similar allegations, all my writing on the war crimes trial and on other matters is done independently. I have only only ever received professional fees for my articles from any newspaper or news website for whom I write. That also goes for what I write in my blog - though of course no-one pays me for that!

Ironically, ‘Carver’ does not see fit to mention that I broke the real Quasem lobbying story in the New Age in October 2011

False claim 6: "Inaccurate and motivated reporting on the War Crimes Trial" 

The article states that I am ‘continually weaving articles which were biased, fallacious and at times were not even half true’; that I am involved in ‘blatantly false propaganda’; that I have ‘provided sources and document, which are factually incorrect and baseless’; that I strive ‘to highlight anything negative about the tribunal’; that I ‘constantly accused the judges … of being biased and demonstrating favoritism;’ hat I craft articles to make the tribunal appear to be a “political farce”; and that I am seeking to ‘reduce the credibility of the current government.’ 

These are entirely false statements - which is clear from his failure to provide any evidence to support such serious allegations. My articles are well researched, and based on factually accurate materials and sources.

In my writing I have always supported the need for accountability and for the establishment of a process to investigate 1971 crimes and the prosecution of those responsible, to bring justice for the victims of the crimes against humanity committed during the war.

I believe in and support the rights of victims of the war crimes committed in Bangladesh in 1971 to secure justice, and the need to end impunity enjoyed by those responsible, including Pakistani army and their local collaborators.

At the same time - and this is simply the other side of the coin in seeking an accountability process - I believe that trials that take place should be fair and follow due process. I have therefore sought to follow and document the trial proceedings and have done so in good faith, and in a fair, objective and neutral manner. This unfortunately has angered people who feel that the trials should not be subject to any critical scrutiny - and as a result they make the kind of allegations that are set out in the 'Carver' article.

False claim 7: “Falsely wrote that a defence witness had been abducted by the state” 

'Carver’ argues that I contrived, and made up the story of the abduction of Sukhranjan Bali, a defence witness whom law enforcement agencies are alleged to have abducted. 

“Carver's” suggestion that I was present at the time of the abduction somehow orchestrating events is false and absurd - I first read about the allegations in the same way as everyone else, on the online news websites. The ‘Carver’ article also provides a garbled and inaccurate version of the background to Bali’s abduction. Those who wish to read about what actually happened, can read this and this. Significantly, Sukhranjan Bali has himself stated that he was picked up by law enforcement authorities from outside the International Crimes Tribunal and kept in secret custody for about six weeks before being taken over to India.

False claim 8: "Falsely wrote about the trial of Salauddin Quader Chowdhury" 

'Carver' accused me of “duplicity”, and “skullduggery” in my writing about the trial of Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and claims that I ‘defend SQC and his representatives when they tried to bully the tribunal into introducing fresh witness though it.’

This is entirely inaccurate. Nothing in my writing is concerned with defending any accused person – it is simply about looking at the process. My writing on Chowdhury has focused on the Tribunal only allowing defence lawyers to summon 5 witnesses to testify against 20 charges whilst the prosecution had no restrictions, and were able to summon 41 witnesses, as well as the Tribunal not referring to affidavits of witnesses in its judgment. These are both matters of public record. My writing has also considered how the appellate division dealt with these matters.

False claim 9: "Other people are employed to maintain the blog" 

The ‘Carver’ article claims that this blog is ‘maintained by 4 full-time employees and 2 part timers. It also claims that one of my former part-time employees ‘revealed that Mr Bergman paid him 7 grand a month to maintain his blog.’ 

This is entirely false and fictitious. I am the only person who maintains my blog and publishes material on it. have not employed or paid any person to “maintain my blog” .

For a period of time, which ended over two years ago, I engaged a number of Dhaka University Students to attend the Tribunal and to take notes of the proceedings and paid them an honorarium from my own pocket to cover their time. This was done openly with the permission of the Tribunal.

False claim 10: “Allegations against my family” 

The ‘Carver’ article also makes a number of false and grossly defamatory claims about my parents in law and my wife. 

These are so vicious and disgusting, apart from being completely untrue, that I am not going to respond to them. Anyone who has questions about their contribution to the cause of bringing war criminals to trial can speak to the Liberation War Museum, Projonmo 71 or any other person involved with the process who does not have a personal or partisan political agenda