Ignoring Torture Claims and Questionable Evidence, New York Jury Convicts Pakistani Scientist Aafia Siddiqui
A New York jury has convicted the US-educated Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui of attempted murder for shooting at US forces while jailed in Afghanistan in 2008. None of the Americans were injured, but Siddiqui was shot and wounded while in US custody. Human rights groups have long alleged that Siddiqui was forcibly disappeared by Pakistani authorities in 2003 and interrogated and tortured at the behest of the United States. In her testimony, Siddiqui claimed to have been held in a US secret prison. We speak to Siddiqui family spokesperson Tina Foster of the International Justice Network and Petra Bartosiewicz, an independent journalist who has been closely following Siddiqui¡¯s case. [includes rush transcript]
Tina Foster, Executive Director of the International Justice Network and the spokesperson for Aafia Siddiqui¡¯s family.
Petra Bartosiewicz, independent journalist who wrote about Aafia Siddiqui in the November 2009 edition of Harper¡¯s Magazine and covered the trial with daily dispatches for the website Cage Prisoners. She is also working on a book titled The Best Terrorists We Could Find, an investigation of terrorism trials in the US since 9/11.
This transcript is available free of charge. However, donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution.
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JUAN GONZALEZ: We begin today with one of the most baffling cases in the so-called war on terror, the story of thirty-seven-year-old Aafia Siddiqui.
On Wednesday, a New York court convicted the American-educated Pakistani neuroscientist of attempted murder for shooting at US soldiers and FBI agents while detained in Afghanistan in 2008.
Back in 2003, Aafia Siddiqui was wanted by law enforcement and the FBI and suspected of links to al-Qaeda leadership. But the MIT-trained scientist had mysteriously disappeared along with her three children, two of whom are US citizens. She reappeared five years later in Afghanistan with her oldest son and was arrested on suspicion of carrying chemicals and notes referring to ¡°mass-casualty attacks¡± in New York.
Aafia Siddiqui was not tried on terrorism charges or for her alleged ties to al-Qaeda. The case against her rested on events that took place the day after she was arrested in Afghanistan in July of 2008. The prosecution said she grabbed an unattended rifle and opened fire on a group of US soldiers and FBI agents who were questioning her. None of the Americans was injured, but Siddiqui was shot and wounded while in US custody.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, on Wednesday, the jury reached a unanimous verdict, finding Siddiqui guilty of attempted murder, armed assault, and using and carrying a firearm. She faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. Defense lawyers argued there was no physical evidence that Siddiqui had touched the rifle.
ELAINE SHARP: I disagree with the jury¡¯s verdict. In my opinion, it is wrong. There was no forensic evidence, and the witness testimony was divergent, to say the least. This is not a just and right verdict. It is a just and right system, but the jury¡ªjuries do make mistakes. Juries do go wrong. And my opinion is that this was a verdict that was based on fear and not fact.
AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, human rights groups have long alleged that Siddiqui was forcibly disappeared by Pakistani authorities in 2003 and interrogated and tortured at the behest of the United States. In her testimony last week, Siddiqui claimed to have been held in a secret prison by the Americans.
For more on the case of Aafia Siddiqui, we¡¯re joined here by two guests. Tina Foster is the executive director of the International Justice Network. She¡¯s a spokesperson for Aafia Siddiqui¡¯s family. Petra Bartosiewicz is an independent journalist who has been closely following this story. She wrote about Aafia Siddiqui in the November issue of Harper¡¯s Magazine, the piece called ¡°The Intelligence Factory: How America Makes Its Enemies Disappear.¡± She¡¯s working on a book called The Best Terrorists We Could Find, an investigation of terrorism trials in the US since 9/11.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Tina, let¡¯s begin with you. Your response to the verdict?
TINA FOSTER: Well, the family¡¯s response obviously is one of great disappointment, but I can¡¯t say a great deal of shock, because from the beginning of this trial, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was portrayed as a terrorist, and instead of assuming the presumption of innocence, which most criminal defendants get when they come into a courtroom, Dr. Aafia had already been painted very much as a dangerous woman before she was even brought into the courtroom. And so, I think we saw during the course of the trial that she suffered the prejudice that was¡ªthat had already been laid as a foundation.
So, the family is going to obviously be calling for an appeal. We¡¯re obviously most concerned about Aafia¡¯s mental state, because during the trial, she clearly was not herself. She made a number of outbursts during the trial, and we think that is directly related to the trauma that she suffered while in secret prisons and while tortured for those five years while she was missing. In addition, she¡¯s been in solitary confinement for a year and a half while in US custody. That has also contributed to her deteriorating mental state.
And probably perhaps most importantly, why my organization became involved in this case is the two children, the two youngest children of Dr. Aafia, who were three months old and four years old when they were captured, are still missing. And the International Justice Network believes that those children were also taken into detention at the same time that Aafia was, and we¡¯re still looking for those two children.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And the decision of the government, even though the alleged crime that she was on trial for happened in Afghanistan, to have the trial here in New York, what was the basis for that?
TINA FOSTER: Well, I mean, I think that this is a pattern that we¡¯ve seen actually since 9/11 of individuals who should probably stay in the criminal justice systems of the places where they are detained being shifted around in sort of a shell game. I think Aafia Siddiqui was likely in a number of secret prisons in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, before she came to be in US custody.
When she came into US custody, the first that we had heard from the family, after five years of her disappearance, was that she had¡ªshe was at Bagram Hospital in US custody, and she had been shot several times. And the explanation that was given were the facts that were alleged in the shooting.
AMY GOODMAN: Petra Bartosiewicz, let¡¯s go back to the beginning. You wrote this very interesting story in Harper¡¯s Magazine about Aafia. Tell us how you got interested, and then tell us her story from the beginning, this MIT-trained neuroscientist. What happened to her?
PETRA BARTOSIEWICZ: Well, I first heard about the case in August 2008, when she was brought to the United States from Afghanistan. And as Tina was saying, the issue of why she was brought here, she was entitled to a consular visit in Afghanistan, which she didn¡¯t receive.
And the jury was told that she was brought to the United States to face charges because she opened fire on US soldiers, and that was the justification. But what the jury didn¡¯t hear is this huge back story in this case, which kind of gives it the all-important context, and I think the trial sort of happened in a vacuum where it was just about this shooting in a room. But what they were not told was that she¡¯d been missing for five years and that when she went missing in 2003, she was a suspected al-Qaeda operative. And she was never charged with that in this case.
AMY GOODMAN: When you say she went missing, where was she?
PETRA BARTOSIEWICZ: Well, she went missing from Karachi, Pakistan. That¡¯s most of the reports. She actually spent about eleven years in the United States. She was educated in the US. She came to the US from Pakistan, and she joined her brother in Houston. He lives in Houston now. And she studied at MIT and Brandeis. And two of her three children were born in the US. She was married in the US to a Pakistani man.
And she lived a normal life until just after 9/11, when there were some reports that brought mainly her husband, I think, at the time, under suspicion. And they were interviewed by the FBI, and nothing really came of it. She eventually returned to Pakistan. She divorced. And then, in 2003, she went missing. But right around the time she went missing, there were increasing reports that she was wanted for questioning. And then later she was named an al-Qaeda¡ªsuspected al-Qaeda operative. But for five years, no one heard anything about her.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, in your efforts to get to the back story, as you say, you traveled all over Pakistan. She comes from a very prominent family, you suggested in the article, and you interviewed several of the relatives. And generally the press accounts there assumed she was in CIA or US custody during all that time?
PETRA BARTOSIEWICZ: Yes, I think the main¡ªthe story that most people believe in Pakistan is that she was picked up, but by Pakistanis. I think the conventional wisdom is that the US intelligence community relies on the Pakistani intelligence community very heavily, and so the belief is that she would have been picked up by the Pakistanis. And my reporting suggested that, as well, and that she was either handed over to the CIA immediately or soon after or at some point.
Some people are held in what is called custodial¡ªin a custodial situation, where the Pakistanis might have control over them physically, but the US has access to question them. There are numerous documented accounts of that. And the belief was, though, that she was picked up. Now, there are also reports that she was on the run for some period of time, but it does seem that she was held somewhere for some period of this time.
AMY GOODMAN: The title of your article, ¡°The Intelligence Factory: How America Makes Its Enemies Disappear,¡± what do you mean by that?
PETRA BARTOSIEWICZ: Well, the war on terrorism is fought largely through intelligence gathering, not really evidence building as in a crime like a murder, for example, where you¡¯re going back after the fact. Terrorism is fought mainly in terms of future: what is going to happen, who might do something, what might they do. And intelligence is sort of the fodder for these investigations.
But intelligence is primarily produced by detainees. And so, we sort of are in this position now where we are needing to produce more and more detainees, who then produce that intelligence. And because we now have all of these confirmed reports about the types of interrogations that are happening, we know that there¡¯s a lot of false intelligence being generated. And that leads to other people being detained. And I think the main tool that investigators use these days is kind of associations, who knows whom, and that¡¯s the primary connection that gets people on the radar. The question of what that relationship actually means, which is all-important, is less investigated.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Tina Foster, I¡¯d like to ask you about the trial itself, though. I guess the most dramatic moment is when she gets on the stand and says that she was being tortured while in US custody. She went on the stand against the advice of her lawyers. She appeared to have a very contentious relationship with the lawyers, claiming that they didn¡¯t represent her. Could you talk about that whole aspect?
TINA FOSTER: Sure, sure. You know, Aafia, when she was brought to the United States in July of 2008, August 2008, she was assigned lawyers, but there was a period of time when she did not have anyone assigned to her. The government of Pakistan stepped in and hired defense lawyers, who were considered a legal dream team at the time. But by the time that had happened, Dr. Aafia had already lost complete faith in the US justice system. She did not trust any court-appointed lawyers, any lawyers that were going to be assigned to her, and she insisted that she wanted to at least have access to a phone book so she could try to find her own lawyers. That was denied by the judge. The judge said, ¡°Listen, there¡¯s a lot of lawyers sitting right here. We¡¯re ready to try this case, and I¡¯m not going to give you more time to go find your own lawyer.¡± That, I think, set the stage for a very contentious relationship, where Aafia, you know, continually disavowed her lawyers, did not¡ªwas not allowed to maintain any sort of relationship with them, and, I think, ultimately was denied effective assistance of counsel as a result of that, not by any mistake the lawyers made, but that was the judge¡¯s call at the time.
When she took the stand, against the advice of her attorneys, she clearly had a story she wanted to tell. And she had not been able to tell it during the trial. She did her best to stay, you know, within the judge¡¯s parameters of what she was allowed to talk about, because, of course, he wouldn¡¯t¡ªthough he allowed all of the evidence against her trying to portray her as a dangerous terrorist, he did not allow the defense to broach that area. So, she came across, as Petra said, you know, speaking in a vacuum, and the jury didn¡¯t hear the back story. So she may have appeared a little bit irrational in their minds, because they hadn¡¯t heard that the reason she didn¡¯t know that the boy that was found with her was her son is because they had been separated five or six years ago, and she had not been allowed to see him. So, a lot of the things she said seemed shocking to the jury.
AMY GOODMAN: Tina, can you explain how Aafia resurfaced in Ghazni in 2008?
PETRA BARTOSIEWICZ: Well¡ª
AMY GOODMAN: Petra.
PETRA BARTOSIEWICZ: She was found in Ghazni with a boy, who turned out to be her son, and she was suspected of being a suicide bomber. She was really just wandering around in the city of Ghazni. And she was said to have on her a slew of documents and some chemical substances, which I think some were just cosmetics. There were some chemicals also. But they were sort of bizarrely incriminating, almost you would write into a movie script. They had words like ¡°mass-casualty attack¡± and ¡°cells¡± and named landmarks in New York City, and there were pictures of guns, which, when we saw them in the courtroom, were sort of like something that a child would really draw. They were described as a match gun that could be lit with a single match, and really not the kind of thing that I would expect a seasoned al-Qaeda operative to have with her if she was wandering around.
She turned out not to be a suicide bomber. But she was arrested, supposedly with these documents, and she was taken to an Afghan¡ªto a local police station. And she was¡ªaccording to Afghan police who testified at the trial, she was beaten the night that she was arrested by numerous people. I think she was also caned. She was tied to a bed to restrain her. Later she was released from the bed, and she was in a room that was divided by a curtain. It was a very small room. She was behind this curtain. And that¡¯s where she was when this shooting incident occurred.
A US team had been alerted to her presence. FBI officials were called in from another base in Afghanistan. They flew in the following morning to identify her and to interrogate her and also to take her with them. That was the goal. But they were told by the Afghans that they could not do that, that they could question her, but they would not be allowed to take her. And they were ushered into this room on the second floor of the police station, where she was behind that curtain, unbeknownst to them, they say. And Afghan officials were already there, some people from the Ministry of Interior and some soldiers from the police station. And that is when this shooting supposedly took place.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And then I think you also mentioned in your article that, again, another bizarre aspect of this very bizarre case is that she somehow¡ªthat there was a rifle that just happened to be on the floor near her, even though she was a suspected connected¡ª
AMY GOODMAN: Lady al-Qaeda?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Lady al-Qaeda, and they just happened to leave a rifle that she managed to grab and then attempt to shoot some of the agents.
PETRA BARTOSIEWICZ: Well, this is the most disputed part of this case, which is what happened after those US soldiers and FBI agents entered that room. What is agreed upon is that they were all there. She, herself, testified that she moved towards the curtain to peek out to see who was there, and she intended to try to escape. She wanted to get out of there. That¡¯s what she told the jury.
Now, what happened next is the big question. According to the testimony of the US team, which was the soldiers and the FBI agents, they say that a warrant officer, who brought his M-4 automatic rifle with him, set it down near the curtain and that she somehow reached past the curtain, grabbed the gun, and aimed it at them, and actually got two shots off. And there were differences in the eyewitness testimony. Some of the people said they didn¡¯t see the shooting. Some said that they saw her shooting from one of the beds that was in the back of the room. Some said she was next to the bed. There were all sorts of different versions of how this happened. The room was quite small and quite crowded, so people had different vantage points.
But what¡¯s interesting is that there was no forensic evidence whatsoever that she shot that gun. There were no fingerprints on the gun. There were no bullet holes in the walls. There were no casings on the floor. There was an abundance of evidence that she had been shot. They found the casings from the revolver that shot her. They found¡ªshe was obviously wounded, so that was very clear.
I think that clearly what happened in¡ªto a certain degree, is that the people in that room were startled when they saw her. And what happened next¡ª
AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me ask something about the coverage of the trial, Petra¡ªthe reporters, Pakistani reporters, not being allowed in. Can you explain who covered the trial and why some weren¡¯t in?
PETRA BARTOSIEWICZ: Well, the¡ªbefore the trial actually started, there was an enormous amount of attention on this case for years, and has been, in Pakistan and much of the Muslim world. And a lot of the Pakistani press came to New York City to cover the trial on a day-to-day basis. But the only credentials that were issued for the courtroom itself were for journalists who have an NYPD press pass, which is actually difficult to get, and it¡¯s meant mainly for crime scene reporters. I don¡¯t have that kind of pass, either. A lot of courthouse reporters don¡¯t have that pass. But that meant that the press rows were reserved only for those people.
And there were about thirty journalists who were credentialed, but they were mainly, you know, the New York City dailies, television stations, radio stations. And most of those outlets don¡¯t cover these kinds of trials from the beginning to the end. They¡¯re there for the first day; they¡¯re there for the last day. And in between, the press rows were very empty.
And the first day, there were only six spaces for public seating, so everybody else was put into an overflow courtroom where they watched the proceedings on a television set. But that meant that whenever exhibits were put on the overhead projector, we couldn¡¯t see that. Some of the witnesses came down off the stand to testify in front of the jury to look at some actual drawings and sketches of the room. We couldn¡¯t really even hear them when they testified on that.
So there was a limited amount of ability to get to the courtroom. The press was¡ªI have to say, the Pakistani press was eventually let into the courtroom, because I think the judge realized that there were not many people covering the case inside the courtroom, but they never really received the actual credentials that would give them that right to be there every day.
AMY GOODMAN: What has changed in covering¡ªin dealing with terror suspects, from Bush to Obama, Tina Foster?
TINA FOSTER: Surprisingly little, unfortunately, I think. You know, in terms of the challenges that are faced by this country in repairing its image internationally, I think that President Obama has done a much better job in terms of articulating the¡ªyou know, a more neutral, friendly, positive approach. However, for those of us like myself at the International Justice Network who have been working on secret prisoner cases, people detained at Bagram instead of Guant¨¢namo, all of these issues are a repeat, unfortunately, of what we saw under the Bush administration. So I think that this trial, in particular, of Aafia Siddiqui is one that is going to be watched in Pakistan quite¡ªit¡¯s already of monumental significance in Pakistan.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And she faces now a possible life-in-prison sentence?
TINA FOSTER: Yeah, she faces a potential life sentence. The sentencing won¡¯t happen for several months. But in the interim, you know, we see that the Pakistani media and community are extremely upset, and they think that this is a travesty of justice, because, of course, they have seen the six years of back story and have been following this from the beginning, and they view Dr. Aafia as a torture victim, as someone who symbolizes the hundreds, if not thousands, of people who¡¯ve disappeared as part of the US-led war on terror.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we will leave it there now, though we will continue to follow the case. Tina Foster, executive director of the International Justice Network, spokesperson for Aafia Siddiqui¡¯s family. And thank you very much to Petra Bartosiewicz, who is an independent journalist closely following Aafia Siddiqui¡¯s case. We will link to her piece at Harper¡¯s called ¡°The Intelligence Factory: How America Makes Its Enemies Disappear.¡±
Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was framed by Zionists
and railroaded in a New York Jewish court
by Ernesto Cienfuegos
La Voz de Aztlan
Los Angeles, Alta California - February 4, 2910 - (ACN) Yesterday, a diminutive MIT and Brandeis University educated neuroscientist and Muslim mother of three was found guilty of the attempted murder of her
torturers while being interrogated in an Abu Ghraib type USA prison in Afghanistan. Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani, now faces imprisonment for the rest of her life.
Her story demonstrates the intense Islamophobia and deep hatred that Zionists have towards Muslims. The verdict came down in a "virtual" Jewish court in Jewish New York that was presided by a Jewish judge. Dr. Siddiqui had no chance for a fair trial, especially when the majority of the jurors where Jewish. According to some news sources, there were no Muslims on the jury.
As a Christian, I can not help associate Dr. Siddiqui's trial with the one that Jesus Christ received in the Jewish Sanhedrin after he was framed by the Pharisees for the Roman authorities. Like Jesus Christ, Dr. Siddiqui was also tortured. She suffered incredible torture and repeated rapes for 5 years as "Prisoner 650" at the USA Bagram Theater Internment Facility in Afghanistan which according to international human rights groups is similar or worse than the now infamous US run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq where beatings, daily
humiliations, rapes and torture of Iraqi Muslim prisoners took place.
Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was essentially framed by modern day Pharisees within the FBI. Today, the FBI, the CIA, Homeland Security and Military Intelligence have a significant number of pro-Israel Zionists within their ranks. At the Abu Ghraib prison, it was the Zionists within the CIA and Military Intelligence that committed the worst of the horrific abuses against the Iraqi Muslim prisoners.
Dr. Siddiqui was the target of incompetent and paranoid Zionists in the FBI simply because she was a Muslim with friends and family members in Pakistan that were critical of Israel and US foreign policies. These Zionists within the FBI accused Dr. Siddiqui of being an Al Queda terrorist which in turn facilitated the Zionist press in the USA to label Dr, Siddiqui "Lady AL Queda" during the trial.
In 2003 while Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was in Pakistan visiting her father and mother, the Zionists within the FBI ordered their Pakistani Secret Service (ISI) lackeys to pick up Dr. Siddiqui for interrogation. The ISI abducted her and her three children. She was taken to the USA run Bagram prison where she was repeatedly
raped, waterboarded and suffered other forms of torture. The ISI then
temporarily released the traumatized victim, planted evidence on her and re-arrested her on charges of terrorism. They then set up a situation inside the prison to accuse her of attempting to kill FBI agents and US soldiers.
The torturers alleged that as she was about to be questioned by the FBI and US soldiers in a room at the Afghan prison, that she picked up an M4 rifle and fired at a US soldier. They state that this is when she was shot in the abdomen. An Amnesty International official said "It seems extraordinary to imagine that four U.S. agents who'd gone to pick her up ¡ª two military, two FBI ¡ª along with at least two Afghan translators, were somehow surprised by this woman, who
overpowered them, grabbed a gun, flipped the safety, fired off a couple of shots, and then could only be subdued by shots to the torso."
Dr. Siddiqui spent 5 years at the hellish Bagram prison and until she was brought to New York to face trial on attempted murder charges. Two of her children are still missing and no one knows where they are. One of the missing children was born in the USA.
It is difficult to understand why the American people allow the Zionists to commit such evil in the name of the USA. Also, how can Americans allow 30 billion dollars of their tax money, in the next ten years, to go for weapons for the war criminals of the Israeli Zionist regime that massacred over 300 Palestinian children one year ago in Gaza. There is no doubt in my mind, these nefarious Zionists within the USA and in Israel will eventually destroy themselves, the country and probably the entire Western world.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Related La Voz de Aztlan article:
Was neuroscientist Dr. Aafia Siddiqui
raped and tortured at US Bagram prison?
Was Head Money Paid For Aafia Siddiqui?
By Ahmed Quraishi
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Advocates of, and apologists for, the US government's position on Pakistani scientist Dr. Aafia Siddiqui are arguing that she was a member of an al Qaeda sleeper cell and that she held extreme views.
This line of reasoning seeks to undermine the stronger case that exists in favor of the wrongs done to her, and the wrongs that US and the Pakistani governments have done to the rights and honor of Pakistani citizens.
There is little doubt that Dr. Siddiqui had weird ideas. She also tried hard to get in contact with al Qaeda terrorists wanted by law. And she is probably not telling the whole truth about her activities and intentions.
But it is also true that:
- She was tortured and turned into a human wreck
- She was illegally flown to the United States
- She was kidnapped in Pakistan
- Her kidnappers used her underage children to blackmail her
- Washington or Islamabad possibly tried to use her to infiltrate al Qaeda under duress
- The lives of her three underage kids, who are Pakistani citizens, have been destroyed
- She has not committed any act of terror
- US government has failed to prove her ties to al Qaeda [the excuse that US government is giving for this is that this would expose intelligence sources]
- US government's case on her attempt to kill US agents is fraught with legal loopholes
- Her indictment came because of the fear of terror manipulated by the US government more than the strength of evidence against her
Our contention is that she didn't actually commit any act of terror. She is guilty of contacting people wanted by law. It is wrong to torture her like this until death. It is wrong to kidnap Pakistanis from our streets. It is wrong to destroy the lives of her three underage kids, who are Pakistani citizens, while the Pakistani government does nothing.
Other countries, including the US, do everything to protect their own
citizens even when they have committed crimes. In US government's case, pressure was applied on foreign governments to hand back US citizens involved in prosecutable crimes, in places as diverse as Italy [murder], Iran [espionage] and Japan [rape by US soldiers].
In Dr. Aafia's case, she's received more than her share of punishment for committing no crime really, and her arrest through kidnap from Pakistan's streets is wrong as a principle.
A point to ponder: someone in Pakistan pocketed the head money that US
government put on her. As if it's not enough that Washington meddles in Pakistani politics and tries to influence who comes to power in our country, we have a rotten political system where people in politics, bureaucracy and military collude in humiliating Pakistani citizens. This has to stop.
Is the incumbent pro-US Pakistani government reluctant to take a stand on Dr. Aafia's case because head money was paid for her?
Why Pakistan's rulers ignore the wider implications of this case: the
systematic way of humiliating Pakistani citizens that has become a policy under the so-called war on terror, practiced in the US and the UK?
We want the government of Pakistan to stand up for its citizens. Period.
If it can't, Pakistanis should change this failed political system and
replace it with new faces unburdened by a client relationship with
Washington and London.
'Disappeared' Pakistani woman convicted of attempted murder
From Larry Johnson¡¯s blog: Looking for Trouble.
Aafia Siddiqui, a U.S.-trained Pakistani scientist, was convicted Wednesday of charges that she tried to kill Americans while detained in Afghanistan in 2008. The Associated Press reported that Siddiqui, 37, was convicted on two counts of attempted murder, though the crime was not found by the jury to be premeditated. She was also convicted of armed assault, using and carrying a firearm, and assault of U.S. officers and employees.
The three-week trial made it sound like Siddiqui, who U.S. authorities had previously described as an al-Qaida sympathizer, had suddenly appeared in Afghanistan where she was arrested and then interrogated by Afghan and U.S. officials. (It was during that interrogation that Siddiqui allegedly staged her attack using a rifle a U.S. officer had left unattended in the room.)
The truth is Siddiqui had been ¡°disappeared¡± in Pakistan by Pakistani intelligence forces in 2003. (She likely was picked up because U.S. intelligence agencies were saying she had terrorist links.)
A report in the Pakistani press said that Siddiqui and her kids, then 7, 5, and 6 months old, had been seen being detained by Pakistani authorities. Days later, a spokesman for Pakistan¡¯s interior ministry and two unnamed U.S. officials confirmed that she was in custody and being interrogated. Several days later, however, Pakistani and American officials apparently changed their minds, saying it was unlikely she was being held.
Siddiqui¡¯s mother, Ismet, has said that a few days after Siddiqui¡¯s disappearance, a man on a motorcycle arrived at her house and told her Aafia was being held and that she should keep quiet if she ever wanted to see her daughter and grandchildren again.
Interestingly enough, on July 7, 2008, only a few weeks before Siddiqui¡¯s arrest in Afghanistan, Yvonne Ridley, an award-winning British journalist and patron of Cage Prisoners, a human rights organization, had sparked an uproar by calling a press conference in Islamabad to demand that the United States hand over an unidentified female prisoner being held at the U.S.-run Bagram prison in Afghanistan.
Ridley said the woman, whom she called the ¡°Gray Lady of Bagram,¡± had been held in solitary confinement for years. And while no one knew for sure the identity of that prisoner, Ridley said she thought it was Siddiqui. Several former U.S. captives have also reported that a female prisoner, known only as prisoner 650, was being held in Bagram. And according to news reports, the former captives said she had lost her sanity, and cried all the time.
Ridley had written previously about ¡°Prisoner 650¡å and her four-year ordeal of torture and repeated rapes, saying that her cries had prompted the male prisoners to go on a hunger strike. And, at the Islamabad press conference, Ridley said she called her a ¡°Gray Lady¡± because she was almost a ¡°ghost, a specter whose cries and screams continue to haunt those who heard her.¡±
At her trial in New York, Siddiqui said she had been tortured and held in a secret prison before her detention. AP reported that she said charges that she attacked U.S. personnel who wanted to interrogate her were ¡°crazy.¡± ¡°It¡¯s just ridiculous,¡± Siddiqui told the court.
And it is ridiculous. More likely this woman has been charged, and now convicted, of these crimes to cover up years of U.S. torture. The United States will never regain a position of trust in the world as long as a miscarriage of justice like this is unchallenged and uncorrected.
Are Children of Dr. Aafia Still Alive?
Throughout the trial of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, human rights observers have been waiting anxiously for more clues as to what happened to her and her children during the five years that she was reported missing by family members. They come every day earlier and earlier, to ensure they get a seat in the very limited space reserved for the public.
Shortly after the trial began as a government eyewitness described the documents that were allegedly found in her possession, including hand written notes on how to make a dirty bomb, she shouted out ¡°it¡¯s a lie¡I was told to copy from a magazine¡if you were held in a secret prison and your children were tortured¡±; at which point she was whisked away by U.S. Marshalls.
The court then took a recess and when the trial resumed, prosecutors requested that it be stricken from the record. But in closing remarks, defense attorney reminded everyone that the prosecution never challenged that assertion. Something terrible happened to Dr. Siddiqui, Moreno said. But without more information, it would be hard for any juror who is not an avid consumer of non-mainstream or foreign media, to be able to even imagine what that horror may have been.
In the morning before the closing remarks, the last government witness, FBI Special Agent, Angela Sercer testified. Sercer monitored Siddiqui for 12 hours a day over a two week period while she was at a hospital in Bagram. She tried to rebut Aafia Siddiqui¡¯s testimony, by saying that Siddiqui told her she was in ¡°hiding¡± for the last five years and further that she ¡°married¡± someone to change her name.
However under cross examination, Sercer admitted that while at the hospital Siddiqui expressed fear of ¡°being tortured¡±. Sercer also admitted that Siddiqui expressed concern about the ¡°welfare of the boy¡± and asked about him ¡°every day¡±. Moreover, that Siddiqui only agreed to talk to her upon promises that the boy would be safe. According to the testimony Siddiqui said that the Afghans had ¡°beaten her¡±; that her ¡°husband had beaten her and her children¡±; and that she was ¡°afraid of coming into physical harm¡±.
When Sercer was further questioned about what Siddiqui said about her children during that two week period, she admitted that Siddiqui expressed concern about the ¡°safety and welfare of her children¡±, but felt that the ¡°kids had been killed or tortured in a secret prison¡±. ¡°She said that they were dead, didn¡¯t she¡± asked Defense attorney, Elaine Sharpe; reluctantly Sercer answered, ¡°Yes¡±.
Siddiqui herself may not know whether the children are alive or not. In a psychiatric report she told an interviewer ¡°my baby is flying but he does not grow¡±, ¡°maybe it¡¯s because I¡¯m not nursing him¡±. Nonetheless, it is surprising that the testimony presented at her trial did not prompt an immediate state department investigation. After all, at least one of the children, Maryum, who would now be 10 years old, is a U.S. Citizen.
If it is true that the kids have been killed, then, the question arises, who will be charged with ¡°attempting to murder a U.S. National¡±, for that crime?
Pakistan Gags Siddiqui Family
by Ibrahim Sajid Malick
After the guilty verdict against Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman charged with attempted murder in the U.S, was announced, Elaine Whitfield Sharp, her attorney, spoke to reporters outside the Federal Court House where the trial was held. Despite all the bravado of Pakistani officials implying that Siddiqui would be released, this verdict ensures that she will spend a few more decades in U.S. Custody.
Sharp told reporters that her client, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was picked up by Pakistani Intelligence officials on March 29, 2003 outside of her home in Karachi. They arrived in two black cars and placed Siddiqui in one car and the children in another car. Siddiqui says that she was immediately hooded and drugged and when she woke up she was tied to a gurney in a place that could not have been Karachi because the air was very dry.
Sharp also discussed the issue of the missing children. She said that the baby was killed during the arrest, but Siddiqui does not know if the girl, Maryam, who would now be 11 years old, is alive or not. Siddiqui was shown a picture of her baby laying in a pool of blood.
American reporters continued to find Siddiqui¡¯s claims incredulous and questioned Sharp on the plausibility. Do you really believe her?, a reporter asked Sharp. ¡°Yes!¡±, she replied.
Sharp said that a gag order was placed on the family by the Government of Pakistan, who made this a pre-condition for the release of the oldest child Ahmed. This is why no one from the family has been able to talk openly about what may have happened to her and her children for 5 years.
Many reporters have also said that an ISI official frequented the proceedings and told them ¡°off the record¡± that Siddiqui is actually part of an Al-Qaeda sleeper cell.
Many legal observers have questioned if there was a conflict on interest in the Government of Pakistan paying for the defense when they themselves are implicated in her kidnapping. Dr. Siddiqui, according to her attorney, requested that all her supporters not engage in any violence in protest against the verdict.
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