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US Cites Concern Over BGMEA “Sedition” Statement

Bangladesh Readymade Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) President Atiqul Islam, recently said any individual or labor rights activists who directly contact the U.S. government or Congress should be persecuted for sedition, and the U.S. has responded in kind.

Islam made the statement at a meeting with Bangladesh Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed in the BGMEA offices last week, following Ahmed’s visit to the U.S. as part of a Bangladesh delegation earlier this month.

During the U.S. visit, Congressmen reportedly presented Ahmed with a letter sent from Bangladesh alleging worker torture, and Islam’s comments were made in response to the matter.

“There are laws and courts in this country,” Islam said. “Despite that, those who are making allegations abroad without informing anyone must face sedition charges,” he added, according to Bangladesh’s BD News 24.

The 10-member Bangladesh delegation visited the U.S. in June to meet with trade officials and Congressmen to discuss the country’s progress toward reform in its textile industry, and to ask the U.S. to consider reinstating the nation’s trade benefits under its Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program.

In response to Islam’s comments, U.S. Department of State deputy department spokesperson Marie Harf said during a press briefing last week, “We have grave concerns about these statements,” BD News 24 reported. “These statements, if true, are outrageous and unacceptable.”

Harf added, “Bangladesh enjoys a rich tradition of parliamentary democracy, free speech, free association, and any attempt to muzzle civil society, including through these kinds of means, would be to the detriment of all Bangladeshis.”