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First Step Forum Report

June 2, 2006

Goodwill Ambassador Candelin expresses concern about Bangladesh situation

Johan Candelin of Finland, representing the international First Step Forum group expressed grave concerns about the situation in Bangladesh during a meeting with former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, present leader of the opposition in Dacca.

During a one-hour meeting at her home, Candelin thanked Hasina for her work to protect the Christian minority and other groups.

Speaking on national television and to media, Candelin raised concerns for the possibility of great violence within some months if the government does not commit to free and fair elections.

Not all people in Bangladesh have identification cards, and some people have registered multiple times in many voting places to cast "non-democratic" votes to the government and its bedfellow Islamic party.

Speaking to the press and to human rights and religious experts, Candelin also warned of a possible violence against the minority political opposition, which Hasina leads.

"The killing of innocent people during the last years is unbelievable," said Candelin. "Unless something positive happens very soon my estimation is that there will be attacks on the minority political opposition supporters and media.

There have been several attacks on Sheikh Hasina\'s life, the last of which ended in the deaths of four of her bodyguards. Hasina also lost hearing in one ear because of the attack, and warned about the possibility of a "talibanization of Bangladesh."

Candelin called on the international community to respond immediately, or be prepared for a bigger tragedy.

"There could be killings on a large scale, and the international community really needs to put the spotlight on Bangladesh very soon," said Candelin. "If not, the result will be a catastrophe"

Contact Information:

Rev. Johan Candelin (Finland)

E-mail: candelin@kolumbus.fi

Tel: + 358 50 5147611