USA Vs. AAFIA SIDDIQUI
- USA Vs. AAFIA SIDDIQUI.
FEAR vs. FACT.
Bismillaah, wal-hamdulilaah, was-salaatu was-salaamu 'alaa rasoolillaah,
Assalaamu alaykum wa rahmatuallahi wa barakatuhu
Cageprisoners Inside the Courtroom Coverage
by Petra Bartosiewicz
Feb 3, 2010, DAY 12, USA v SIDDIQUI
After a day and a half of deliberation, a 12-member jury found Siddiqui guilty today on charges that she tried to kill a team of U.S. soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan in 2008. The verdict was announced just after 2 p.m. in a packed courtroom. Siddiqui remained silent as each juror answered "yes" when asked if she was guilty on all counts. As the jury was ushered from the courtroom, Siddiqui spoke out, saying, "This is a verdict coming from Israel, not America," and then turned to the spectator gallery and said, "Your anger should be directed where it belongs. I can testify to this and I have proof."
Siddiqui now faces up to 50 years in prison on seven charges, including attempted murder, assault, and possession of a firearm while committing a violent crime. The firearm charge alone carries a mandatory minimum of 30 years in prison. Sentencing is set for May 6 in the same courtroom where her nearly three-week trial took place. Within minutes of the verdict news sites and blogs had spread the word of Siddiqui's conviction. The case has been widely reported in the Pakistani press and protests and vigils have been held for Siddiqui in Pakistan. Outside the courthouse, her attorney Elaine Sharp said Siddiqui was "adamant she doesn't want to see any violent protest" as a result of the verdict. Defense attorney Charles Swift told reporters the case was about "fear versus fact," and said that prosecutors portrayed Siddiqui as a terrorist though she was not charged with any terrorism offense. The prosecution team of Christopher LaVigne, David Rody and Jenna Dabbs did not comment publicly. A statement later released by the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York, said the jury had "brought Aafia Siddiqui to justice."
Over the past two days of deliberations jurors periodically sent notes to the judge requesting to see the testimony of various witnesses. At one point they returned to the courtroom to inspect the M-4 rifle Siddiqui is said to have fired at the U.S. team, and the 9mm revolver the U.S. Army chief warrant officer used to shoot her. Periodic laughter could be heard coming from the jury room today as deliberations continued. When jurors sent word that they had reached a verdict, the prosecution and defense teams filed into the courtroom. U.S. Marshals and court security officers ringed the spectator gallery and Siddiqui was brought into the courtroom from the holding cell she has spent much of the trial in. Siddiqui's brother, Mohammed, who has attended every day of the trial and taken detailed notes throughout the proceedings, sat several rows directly behind his sister. At the announcement of the verdict he shook his head and put his notepad back into his suit pocket.
Jurors did not find that the shooting was premeditated, which would have carried a potential life sentence, but Siddiqui may get effectively just that because prosecutors are expected to ask the judge to apply a terrorism enhancement, which will likely push her sentence towards the maximum number of years. In addition to the mandatory 30 years in prison she faces on the firearm charge, she could get as many as 20 years in prison on two charges of attempted murder and assault, as well as 8 years on three lesser assault charges. Her sentence on the attempted murder and assault charges may be served concurrently, but the sentence on the firearms charge must be served consecutively.
Although Siddiqui was not charged with terrorism, prosecutors cast her as a would-be terrorist by introducing documents she was allegedly found with in Ghazni, Afghanistan on July 17, 2008, the day before the shooting incident. The documents, which reference "cells," "dirty bombs" and a "mass casualty attack," and name New York City landmarks like the Empire State Building, were the subject of fierce wrangling by prosecutors and defense attorneys. On the eve of the trial Judge Richard Berman ruled in favor of the prosecution and said they could introduce the documents to show Siddiqui's intent in the shooting. Siddiqui's defense team acknowledged the documents were in her hand, but when Siddiqui took the stand in her defense she did little to clarify where they were from or why she had them, saying only that she had not packed her bag and didn't know how she got them. She later suggested she copied the text on the documents from a magazine. Prosecutors said the documents demonstrated Siddiqui had the "knowledge and the know-how" to attack the U.S. The excerpts shown in court, however, suggested something less than a master terrorist. One page showed a crude sketch of a gun that was described as a "match gun" that operates by lighting a match. In the absence of any counter-narrative from the defense, the documents remained suggestively incriminating and provided a backdrop for the charges. Full page excerpts of the documents were shown in open court on an overhead projector during the trial, but were too distant for those in the spectator gallery to make out the words, and the judge later issued a protective order sealing their contents from public view.
Because the charges against Siddiqui were limited to the shooting in Ghazni, the trial unfolded in a kind of vacuum. Early in the case Siddiqui's defense team suggested she was a victim of the "dark side," picked up by Pakistani or U.S. intelligence, but prosecutors insisted they found no evidence she'd ever been illegally detained. By the time of the trial, no mention was made of Siddiqui's whereabouts during her five missing years. No explanation was given as to why a would-be terrorist would wander around openly with a slew of almost theatrically incriminating materials in her possession. No questions were raised about the whereabouts of her two missing children, one of whom is a U.S. citizen. And yet, references to the backstory came trickling out in ways that must have seemed strange to the jurors, who were given strict instructions not to read anything about Siddiqui or the case. During Siddiqui's testimony she made numerous references to "secret prisons" and "torture." FBI agents also testified that Siddiqui told them she believed her missing children were likely dead, and that she was worried for the safety of her eldest son, with whom she'd been found in Ghazni. Her statements, like her outbursts in the courtroom, were dismissed by prosecutors as calculated attempts to sabotage the proceedings. Her defense attorneys, who made an unsuccessful appeal to the judge to have her blocked from testifying in her defense, said she was mentally unstable. Siddiqui's mental health will likely be a major issue on appeal. After she was brought to the U.S. to face charges in August 2008, the court initially found her mentally incompetent, but after an extensive psychiatric evaluation the decision was reversed and she was deemed fit to stand trial.
Petra Bartosiewicz is a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including The Nation, Mother Jones, and Salon.com. Her forthcoming book on terrorism trials in the U.S., The Best Terrorists We Could Find, will be published by Nation Books early next year. You can find her investigation of Aafia Siddiqui's case, "The Intelligence Factory: How America Makes its Enemies Disappear," in the November 2009 issue of Harper's magazine (www.harpers.org) and at her website www.petrabart.com. She can be reached at petrabart@....
Surah Isra 17 verse 80 Say: "O my Lord! let my entry be by the Gate of Truth and Honor and likewise my exit by the Gate of Truth and Honor; and grant me from Thy Presence an authority to aid (me)."
NOTE: Dr. Aafia Siddiqui is an innocent woman who has been subjected toyears of imprisonment and torture. At the time of her arrest, her young children were taken from her and she does not know to this day what happened to them. It is believed the baby was killed at that time. For more information on this horrible example of brutal American imperialism, go to
THE PEACE AND JUSTICE FOUNDATION
11006 Veirs Mill Rd, STE L-15, PMB 298
Silver Spring, MD. 20902
SAFAR 1431 A.H.
(February 4, 2010)
Assalaamu Alaikum (Greetings of Peace):
I begin with an apology and explanation for just now releasing a statement on yesterday's verdict of our sister, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. While each of these trials leave their own emotional imprint, this one affected me on a far deeper level than others have in the past. The only person that I sent an e-mail to yesterday concerning the trial's outcome was Yvonne Ridley in Britain. Earlier in the day she requested that I let her know as soon as a verdict was reached; and given the time, energy and sacrifice that she has devoted to this case, I felt the obligation to oblige. My statement (below) was brief:
Aafia was found "guilty" on all counts, and to be honest, I'm feeling a bit emotionally devastated right now. I'm going to take a few days off to re-group, because my emotions (a mix of anger, pain, and shame) are much too raw for me to be trying to issue any statements. I'm convinced that ALLAH (SWT) will sustain Aafia through this [new] trial; but I have profound concern for this deeply disturbed country called America.
The struggle continues...
My sister Yvonne's response (being the warrior that she is on the other side of the Atlantic) was the following:
don't get angry - get even ... between you and I we can kickstart a new campaign, we just need to re-charge our batteries. You and I are both devastated but the really sad thing is that Aafia will not be in the least bit surprised having given up any hope a long time ago of ever getting justice.
With that said, I should also note that last night I got very little sleep; and so I picked up The Noble Qur'an in the middle of the night and began reading - from Suratul Baqara, Tauba, and Anfal. This reading, and the little writing that I did (in a notebook) until the time of fajr (early morning prayer), left me physically exhausted, but spiritually refreshed. I'm in a much better place now, mentally (alhamdullilah).
There are a couple of Qur'anic passages that resonated deeply with me last night:
"Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their wealth; for theirs, in return, is the Garden of Paradise. They fight in His cause, and slay, and are slain..." (S. 9:111) And further,
"We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives, or the fruits of your toil; but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere - who say when afflicted with calamity: To ALLAH we belong and to Him is our return." (S. 2:155)
There is also a hadith of the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) which reads as follows:
"Be mindful of ALLAH, you will find him before you. Get to know ALLAH in prosperity, and He will know you in adversity. Know that what has passed you by was not going to befall you; and what has befallen you was not going to pass you by. Know that victory comes with patience, relief with affliction, and ease with hardship."
I believe that Aafia is instinctively and intellectually aware of these truths, and thus, she is in a good place, despite the oppressive (man-made) adversity that she is presently confronted with. And now that I have been reminded of these truths myself, I too am in a better place than I was yesterday.
Insha'Allah, before the upcoming weekend is out, I will write a full report/analysis on the trial, the verdict and the struggle ahead for those of us committed to justice and freedom for Aafia Siddiqui. The struggle MUST continue...and it will NOT be won in the courts of the land. I am reminded of something that the late (and celebrated defense attorney) Bill Kunstler once said to me: "Political trials cannot be won on legalities alone." How right he was!
(The struggle continues),
El-Hajj Mauri' Saalakhan
Insha'Allah, Aafia Siddiqui related programs are already scheduled at a community library in Boston, MA, on Tuesday, Feb 23rd, and at a college in New York on Wednesday, Feb 24th. We are also exploring the possibility of holding a "Town Meeting" at the Shabazz Center (NYC) before the month is out. (If any New York area recipient of this post can assist us with that, it would be deeply appreciated.)
What follows are three informative post-verdict media pieces on Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.
News CENTRAL/S. ASIA
US verdict sparks Pakistan protests
Many in Pakistan believe Siddiqui is innocent and thousands have protested against the verdict [AFP]
Thousands of Pakistanis have staged rallies against the conviction of a Pakistani scientist found guilty of trying to kill American servicemen in Afghanistan.
Protests were held on Thursday in several cities in Pakistan, where many believe that Aafia Siddiqui is innocent.
The neuroscientist, branded "Lady Qaeda" by some in the US press, disappeared for five years before her arrest in Afghanistan in 2008.
She was convicted in a New York court on Wednesday.
Siddiqui, who was arrested in 2008, was accused of grabbing a US serviceman's rifle and opening fire on her American interrogators, who returned fire.
While none of the US agents or personnel were injured, Siddiqui was shot in the incident.
Siddiqui's relatives condemned the verdict, with Fauzia Siddiqui, her sister, saying the verdict had "rejuvenated" the family.
"And we're proud to be related to her," she said, speaking from the Pakistani city of Karachi.
"America's justice system, the establishment, the war on terror, the fraud of the war on terror, all of those things have shown their own ugly faces."
The AFP news agency quoted Ismat Siddiqui, Aafia's mother, who lives in Karachi, as saying the family had been braced for the verdict but would continue to work for her release.
"I did not expect anything better from an American court. We were ready for the shock and will continue our struggle to get her released," she was quoted as saying.
Pakistan's government has expressed "dismay" over the verdict, vowing to consult her family and lawyers on how to get Siddiqui released.
Abdul Basit, a foreign ministry spokesman, said the government would do its best to secure her release.
Siddiqui was missing for five years prior
to her arrest in Afghanistan [EPA]
"The ultimate objective is to get her back to Pakistan and we would do everything possible and we'll apply all possible tools in this regard," he said.
Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, said that as far as public opinion is concerned, the verdict is definitely not in favour of the Americans.
"There is also disappointment with the [Pakistani] government for failing to find a diplomatic way out and getting Aafia Siddiqui back home, because they feel she was innocent."
Before her arrest, Siddiqui had been missing for five years, during which time her family alleges she was held at the US military's Bagram airbase in Afghanistan.
Both the US and the Pakistani authorities deny that Siddiqui was in custody before her arrest in 2008 in the town of Ghazni.
Hyder said: "Many hundreds of people have disappeared from Pakistan - they're still not accounted for - and now that Dr Aafia's case has come up, that's likely to be a rallying point for the anti-American sentiment."
Cageprisoners, a UK-based rights group, rejected the verdict, citing the fact that evidence about Siddiqui's whereabouts prior to her arrest had been disallowed from the trial.
"The case of Aafia Siddiqui carries great significance in terms of the ability of the Obama administration to administer justice," Asim Qureshi, a spokesman for the group, said, referring to the administration of Barack Obama, the US president.
"Already we have seen a blanket refusal to look at the facts of her detention prior to 2008, this verdict will only confirm what many already believe, that it is impossible for Muslim terrorism suspects to receive a fair trial in the US."
At the time of her arrest Siddiqui was allegedly carrying containers of chemicals and notes referring to mass-casualty attacks and New York landmarks.
But she was not charged in connection with those materials and the charges she was convicted of made no mention of terrorism.
During the trial, Linda Moreno, Siddiqui's defence lawyer, argued that there was no evidence the rifle Siddiqui was accused of taking had ever been fired, since no bullets, shell casings or bullet debris were recovered and no bullet holes detected.
Moreno also said the testimony of the government's six eyewitnesses contradicted one another.
Siddiqui faces up to life in prison when she is sentenced on May 6.
Her lawyers have said they intend to appeal the verdict.
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