Archive | Dr. Aafia Siddiqui

Returning to Aafia

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Returning to Aafia

Posted on 04 March 2010 by PakBee - Total hits: 1,689

Of all the stories about alleged Al Qaeda members, perhaps none has been more peculiar than that of Aafia Siddiqui. Due to its peculiar nature, I would like to go back to where it all began.

Here’s a summary of incidents as they were reported in chronological order, for better understanding:

The US-educated Pakistani neuroscientist first appeared on the news radar in March 2003. According to her family, Aafia left her home on March 30 with her three children in a Metro-Cab to catch a flight to Rawalpindi. She then disappeared, and her family alleges that she was kidnapped by Pakistani agencies and subsequently handed over to American agencies.

Despite the Siddiqui family’s accusations, the FBI continued to deny reports of Aafia’s abduction. Meanwhile, a story in Newsweek described Aafia as “reportedly arrested.” By this time, Aafia had been linked with Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

Aafia’s family continued to demand attention to her disappearance, For instance, a letter from her uncle published in Dawn in March 2004 provides a chronology of Aafia’s disappearance. Another letter, published in May 2004, states that Aafia’s mother and sister have been put under house arrest and are not being allowed to contact anyone – the arrest was seen as retaliation for the previous letter.

In May 2004, the Interior Minister confirmed speculations regarding Aafia by confirming that she was arrested from Karachi and handed over to the US authorities for allegedly being involved in terrorist activities.

Meanwhile, more information was gathered about these alleged terrorist activities. Reports surfaced that Aafia and her husband purchased night-vision goggles and body armour from an online military store; that she opened a post office box for Majid Khan, a Pakistani who was held at Guantanamo on suspicion that he planned attacks on American gas stations; and, most importantly, that she traveled to Monrovia to buy diamonds which were then used to fund Al Qaeda operations. The authorities were unable to provide evidence for these allegations, which is why Aafia has not faced terror charges.

For the next two years, Aafia’s case remained shrouded in mystery until her name appeared in Amnesty International’s list of disappeared suspects in the war on terror. More reports poured in suggesting she was detained in a secret US prison. However, it wasn’t until August 2008 that Aafia’s case was brought to the forefront. A crackdown on the media by General Pervez Musharraf’s government caused journalists to take up Aafia’s case as part of a campaign exposing the general’s heinous crimes.

During a press conference in that context, organised by the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf, British journalist Yvonne Ridley claimed that an anonymous woman being tortured at the Bagram Airbase, a US facility in Afghanistan, and sometimes referred to as “Prisoner 650” may be Aafia. Ridley claimed that she was told that a female prisoner had been held for years and, after sexual abuse and confinement, had deteriorated physically and mentally. Ridley’s speculation that the woman could be Aafia stirred the issue in the media.

That day marked the beginning of the campaign vowing to bring justice to Aafia. She was portrayed as ‘Pakistan’s daughter’ who had been sold to the US for money. As the issue of the missing people of Pakistan reached a turning point, Aafia came to symbolise the atrocities linked to the US-led the war on terror, and her case exposed the collaboration between Pakistani and US authorities. Aafia also attracted international attention as the first woman to be sought by the FBI in connection with its pursuit of Al Qaeda. Last week, she was found guilty on charges of the attempted murder of US soldiers in Afghanistan.

Aafia’s conviction has provoked many emotional responses that show little regard for the judicial process.

“The jury couldn’t handle the truth because that would have meant that the defendant really had been kidnapped, abused, tortured and held in dark, secret prisons by the US before being shot and put on a rendition flight to New York,” remarked journalist Ridley when I asked her opinion on the verdict. “It would have meant that her three children – two of them US citizens – would also have been kidnapped, abused and tortured by the US. They couldn’t handle the truth; it is as simple as that.”

Arif Rafiq, president of Vizier Consulting, LLC, also raises some valid points regarding the verdict:

Before us, it seems, are two competing narratives. But I would not rule out other alternatives. The actual details, of Siddiqui’s arrest — whether it occurred five years ago or two weeks ago — is unclear. The initial claims made against her years ago are cause for concern. But it is puzzling as to why, if they were true, there was no legal followup. Even now, those claims go unmentioned in the present legal action against her. Siddiqui is not being treated as an enemy combatant; rather, she’s being prosecuted in conventional U.S. courts, albeit in a more closed anti-terrorism context. And so Siddiqui’s arrest provides not answers, but more questions.

Indeed, the majority in Pakistan echo the same sentiment of dismay and anger. Aafia’s case highlights the underlying mistrust amongst the Pakistani people for the United States, as many have openly criticised the judgement, and termed it biased. Some claim they never expected a different verdict because US courts can’t be trusted to uphold the truth. Such statements are far more worrying then the verdict itself. The growing rift between the masses in Pakistan and US authorities is distressful.

If anything, Aafia’s case should turn the nation’s attention towards Pakistan’s ‘missing persons’ issue. Aafia’s trial has not been able to yield satisfactory answers about where she was, who picked her up and why, or even who she really is. If anything, her outbursts in court make her appear delusional, depressive and possibly psychotic. The only outcome of Aafia’s verdict has been a surge of even more questions. But her misery has given a face to hundreds of Pakistan’s disappeared victims awaiting justice….

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Aafia Siddiqui Trial: Jury Is Still Out

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Aafia Siddiqui Trial: Jury Is Still Out

Posted on 04 February 2010 by PakBee - Total hits: 1,740

Biggest hole in government’s case against Dr. Aaafia Siddiquie today was the absence of M4 rifle bullet holes that the prosecution had previously presented as the key evidence.

As we had reported earlier the defense had a “glove doesn’t fit” moment in the last day of Dr. Siddiqui’s trial.

Our Contributing Editor, Pramilla Srivastava had written yesterday that “a 3-5 second video of a press conference in Ghazni after the arrest of Siddiqui was entered into evidence last week without any description or explanation of its relevance. That press conference was held in the same room where the alleged incident occurred, before it occurred. It is believed that this video shows the same two holes in the wall that the Prosecution claimed where caused by the M4 rifle allegedly fired by Siddiqui later that same day.”

Defense Attorney Linda Moreno presented a portion of the video to the jury that was taped a day prior to the alleged July 18th incident. Video clearly clearly showed two holes in the wall that six government witnesses had earlier testified were caused by Aafia Sidiqqu firing M4 rifle at the US officials.

This video had the same effect on the jury, as the famous ‘If the Glove don’t fit, you must acquit’ argument.

Jury has begun delibration after Judge Richard Berman once again remineded that Dr. Siddiqui is being charged for attempted murder and not for terrorism.
If the video does exonerate Siddiqui and she is still found guilty it will only have been because the jury believed her to be a terrorist. There is simply no evidence that she picked up an M4 rifle and fired it.

As Tina Foster, spokesperson for the family from the International Justice Network, observed in a recent statement, “regardless of how weak the prosecution’s case, which currently looks like a flea circus, it all comes down to whether an American jury can acquit a woman with a scarf covering her face.”

At the time of filing of this report jury was still delibrating.

Stay tuned for the verdict

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Jury to Decide Fate of Aafia Siddiqui

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Jury to Decide Fate of Aafia Siddiqui

Posted on 04 February 2010 by PakBee - Total hits: 6,219

As closing remarks came to an end and jury deliberations began in the trial of female Pakistani, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, who faces 7 count assault and attempted murder charges in a New York Court room, for an alleged shooting incident in Ghazni Afghanistan, many spectators are wondering if it is possible for her to have a fair trial in post 9-11 America.

Although she is not charged with terrorism, the Prosecution was able to make that claim the underpinning of its entire case, due in large part to Judge Richard Berman’s decision to allow into evidence documents found in Dr. Siddiqui’s possession which include handwritten notes about “how to make a dirty bomb” and plans to cause “mass casualties” in the United States. The defense Attorney, Charles Swift said it was a legally “flawed” decision and will be the basis on an appeal if Dr. Siddiqui is not acquitted.

In their closing remarks the prosecution was able to spin the jury’s decision from a verdict on the guilt or innocence of Dr. Siddiqui, to the guilt or innocence of the 9 government eyewitnesses who say they heard or saw an M4 rifle shot on July 18, 2008 by Dr. Siddiqui. ‘For you to find Aafia Siddiqui not-guilty. That means you believe that the 9 Government witnesses who testified under oath stared you in the face and lied, men and women of the armed forces.’, they said.

The Prosecution then characterized Siddiqui as a highly intelligent yet shrewd and cunning manipulator who carefully “planned her defense”. He described how she “ducked” and “dodged” questions referring to her answers about the year she was born and her son who was found with her. During her testimony Dr. Siddiqui was asked if she was born in 1972. Her response was “If you say so” , then she went on to ask how can anyone recall when they were born. Later, she was asked by Jenna Dabbs if the boy she was with was her son. She again couldn’t answer directly claiming that she only saw pictures of him so she didn’t know for sure. Though many legal observers found her answers quite logical, it would be difficult for the jury to understand this without being informed of her claims of being in held in a secret prison for 5 years.

The prosecution then addressed the inconsistencies in the eyewitness testimonies as analogous to a car accident, in which different people would have different accounts of what happened prior to the accident as their “focus” would be on different things, but during the accident everyone’s focus would then “shift” to the sight of action and then perspectives would converge.

Later during the rebuttal phase of the closing, the prosecution argued that the inconsistencies were proof that the accounts were truthful. “They didn’t get together” and make sure their stories matched. “There was no grand conspiracy to convict this woman.” If they wanted to do that “why didn’t they simply plant some evidence” at the crime scene, they argued.

The Prosecution was responding to the closing remarks made by the defense in which Linda Moreno argued that the ‘bond” between soldiers on the battlefield who must “protect each other” to survive , influenced the testimonies of the government witnesses. She pointed out that their testimonies not only conflicted with each other’s but with their own earlier signed statements.

Moreno tried to get the jury to focus on the science and the forensic evidence. “there’s only one witness who’s impartial” and who “doesn’t have a dog in this fight”, and that is the room she said, the 26 X 12 ft room, 300 square feet with 10-20 people. She reminded the jury of the complete lack of physical evidence, no bullets, casings, bullet holes, gun shot residue. No one else was hurt except Aafia Siddiqui in this small crowded room where the M4 rifle allegedly went off. She responded to the government claim that the Afghans took the evidence, by pointing out that they (the Afghans) were the ones who alerted the Americans to her presence in the first place.

The defense was also able to dismiss the only piece of physical evidence submitted by the prosecution. This was the picture of the two holes in the wall which they claimed were caused by the firing of the M4 rifle by Siddiqui. Moreno then replayed a video submitted into evidence last week that showed a press conference held before the U.S. soldiers arrived, in the same room where the incident allegedly occurred, displaying the same two holes that the prosecution argued were certainly bullet holes. Moreno then took the jury back to science and the defense expert, a former NASA scientist, who testified “with scientific certainity” that they were in fact not bullet holes as the prosecution alleged.

In response to the argument that Linda Moreno made that “science” is the only imprtial witness in a case, the prosecution retorted that “science doesn’t have all the answers” and its “not where you need to look”. They then once again went back to the documents allegedly found in her possession as proof of her “intent” to “kill Americans”. In fact, the Prosecution’s closing remarks had more references to the “documents” describing terrorist acts against Americans, than throughout the entire trial. Moreno responded to this by saying, “they’re trying to scare you. But that “Fear has no place in this trial. Fear has no place in America”

During instructions the Judge once again advised the jury that Dr. Siddiqui, like all other criminal defendants, must be presumed innocent, and can only be found guilty if they decide that the government has proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt

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Are Children of Dr. Aafia Still Alive?

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Are Children of Dr. Aafia Still Alive?

Posted on 04 February 2010 by PakBee - Total hits: 14,997

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

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