Wednesday, 21 May 2014

The case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui: Punishment for a Terrorist or a Mockery of Justice?

The case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist and mother of three, has become a crisis point in Pakistani-American relations. Since 2003, when she mysteriously went missing, Aafia Siddiqui still remains a wrongfully convicted person and a scapegoat for America’s “War on Terror.”

The “facts” that led to Siddiqui’s sentence

Siddiqui was a passionate Muslim activist while in the United States. In 2002, the FBI questioned her for potential ties to Al-Qaeda, and in 2003 while in Pakistan, Siddiqui was accused of being an Al-Qaeda financier. Immediately, she was placed on the FBI’s “wanted for questioning” list and went mysteriously missing.

In 2004, Siddiqui was implicated by the UN’s 9/11 Commission, along with five members of Al-Qaeda, for her involvement in a $19,000 diamond purchase in Liberia. The purchase was made to fund the Al-Qaeda 9/11 attacks. Although in 2007, Alan White, former chief investigator for the UN Committee in Liberia confirmed that Siddiqui was in Africa back in 2004 and was involved in the illegal purchase, Siddiqui proved that she was in Boston at the time. She only remained suspect of money laundering.

In 2008, Siddiqui and her 11-year-old son were both arrested in Ghazni, Afghanistan for possessing plans regarding a “mass casualty attack” on US targets, including the Statue of Liberty, as well as bottles containing “chemical substances and liquid gel.” When the FBI came to the scene for interrogation, Siddiqui allegedly tried to shoot a US soldier. As she missed, a second US soldier shot her in the abdomen and left her unconscious. Although this was a fabricated lie by the US Government, given that no fingerprints were found on the rifle she allegedly used to shoot the US soldier, Siddiqui was tried by the New York Federal District Court on charges of attempted murder and assault. In 2010, after 18 months in detention, she was sentenced to 86 years in prison.

The Bagram secret detention, and the Guantanamo abuse

Aafia Siddiqui and her three children—seven, five, and six months old at the time—mysteriously disappeared in 2003 from Pakistan. Her mother, Asmat Siddiqui, said that Aafia and her children left their home in Karachi on March 28, 2003 to go to the airport, but they never got there. In 2010, her eldest son testified that as soon as they left their house, twenty people in four vehicles, including a woman from the Pakistani Intelligence (ISI) were waiting for them on the next street where the family was then abducted. Siddiqui was placed in a car alone, where she was hooded and drugged.

The Pakistani authorities believe that Siddiqui spent five years at the US detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, where she was horribly abused. This well-educated neuroscientist with degrees from MIT and a PhD from Brandeis became the “Grey Lady of Bagram” (Prisoner 650), a ghost of herself, who kept fellow detainees awake with hallucinations about her missing children and her haunting screams. British journalist Yvonne Ridley reports “the cries of (this) helpless woman echoed (with such torment) in the jail that (it) prompted prisoners to go on hunger strike.” Her mysterious reappearance in 2008, the shooting incident in Ghazni, the arrest, the trial and the conviction resemble an attempt to hide her kidnapping in Karachi and her subsequent detention in the US prison in Bagram.

Then, Siddiqui was transferred to the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, where she has been abused. In Guantanamo, she has been brutally raped by male detainees as she was kept in their wing. She was naked, without clothes and without curtains in the washrooms so that male guards could watch her. In order to get her clothes, she was forced to step on the Quran, the holy book of Islam.

Siddiqui’s Muslim activism and the US “War on Terror”

While at MIT, Aafia Siddiqui organized deliveries of the Quran and other Islamic books to Muslims in local prisons. Seen as a religious person by her fellow students, Siddiqui never expressed any extremist behavior. However, in one of her books she writes “May Allah give the strength and sincerity to us so that our humble effort continues and expands until America becomes a Muslim land.” Moreover, Siddiqui preached to Muslim children, protested for Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya, participated in fundraising for Bosnian women and delivered powerful speeches at her local mosque. Her apparent purpose was to assist Muslims around the globe and spread the message of Islam.

Given Siddiqui’s faith and passionate activism, it comes as no surprise that the US government not only targeted her, but sentenced her to 86 years in jail. Christopher LaVigne, Assistant US Attorney, called her “a high security risk.” According to the US government, Aafia Siddiqui is “one of the most wanted Al-Qaeda fugitives.” In 2004, John Ashcroft, the US attorney general, described Siddiqui as “an armed and dangerous terrorist facilitator, who used her education against the United States.”

Interestingly, at almost the same time that Siddiqui and her three children disappeared, two other alleged Al Qaeda suspects went missing from Karachi. Majid Khan and Ali Abd-al-Aziz were most likely arrested by the ISI and handed over to US authorities in the name of the “War on Terror.” Both reappeared in 2006 when they were reported to have suffered tremendous tortures in the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center.

Violation of human rights

Aafia Siddiqui is one of the many victims of the brutal treatment and torture handed down to prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

The Prisoners Rights Law allows prisoners the following rights:

The right to practice religion freely and speak their opinion freely provided these rights do not interfere with their inmate status (First Amendment).
The right to equal protection (Fourteenth Amendment).
The right to be free from inhumane treatment (Eight Amendment).
The right to medical treatment and adequate mental health treatment.
The right to be free from sexual harassment or sex crimes.
The right to voice complaint about the prison conditions to the courts.
The right to be free from discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion.

In the case of Aafia Siddiqui, the United States did not comply with any of the above rights. Additionally, with respect to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United States violated:

The right to life, liberty and security of person (Article 3).
The right to not to be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 5).
The right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law (Article 6), and
The right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which the person has had all the guarantees necessary for defense (article 11).

Even more disturbing is the fact that Aafia Siddiqui’s trial was observed by Amnesty International, who noticed nothing in violation of the human rights. However, four British MPs noted that the trial was “a grave miscarriage of justice that violated the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution as well as the United States’ obligations as a member of the United Nations” and requested Siddiqui’s release due to the lack of forensic evidence tying Aafia to the rifle she allegedly fired. Additionally, a few human rights organizations claimed that Siddiqui and her three children were illegally interrogated, detained and tortured by the ISI and the CIA, claims which were denied by both the ISI and the US Government.

The Israeli Advisor and the US “War on Terror”

Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was randomly selected by the CIA based on Irving Lowenstein’s recommendation. Also known as “Libby,” Lowenstein was President Bush’s National Security Advisor of Israeli nationality. Working closely with Vice-President Cheney, Libby was instructed to select “warm bodies” for abduction, torture and sentence to prison so that President Bush’s set-up of “yellowcake” uranium being illegally imported to Iran was promoted as planned.

Gordon Duff, a Marine Vietnam veteran, who interviewed several Pakistani leaders, as well as the White House and Pentagon intelligence officials, writes “All agreed on one thing: the case against Dr. Aafia was fabricated by the Bush regime and CIA and her prosecution was orchestrated by Israeli intelligence. The Musharraf regime in Pakistan assisted every step of the way.”

The role of the Pakistani government

In an attempt to pacify irritated public opinion, the Pakistani government has voiced discontent at Dr. Aafia Siddiqui’s sentence and stated that it would offer legal assistance to secure her release and repatriation to Pakistan.

“President Zardari directed the government to immediately establish contact with the family of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and provide her with possible legal assistance in the US. The President is concerned about the verdict and expressed the hope that justice will ultimately be done as the case passes through subsequent stages in the US judicial system.”

However, Aafia’s mother said to Agence France Presse “What has happened clearly shows the lack of seriousness on the part of our government in getting her released.” On the same page, Aafia’s sister, Dr. Fauzia Siddiqui said in a press conference: “Everybody knows that Aafia was kidnapped by the Pakistani intelligence agencies at the orders of General Pervez Musharraf, who later handed her over to the US authorities, who transferred her to Bangram, where she was detained and tortured for many months.” Fauzia insists that if the Pakistani government were to assist in Aafia’s repatriation, it would cut off all supplies to the US and other NATO troops in Afghanistan.

Bottom Line

Today, Aafia is being held at the Federal Medical Centre in Texas, in a women’s prison. Her case is the case of a wrongfully convicted woman for an alleged attempted shooting of a US service member, which is as of yet unproven as no forensic evidence ever tied Aafia Siddiqui to the gun she allegedly used to shoot the FBI interrogators. So, at the end of the day, her conviction is based on fabricated charges of attempted murder in order for the US military intelligence to hide their crimes, crimes far more serious than those for which Aafia Siddiquihas been wrongfully convicted.

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