[Ppnews] US frame-up of Aafia Siddiqui begins to unravel

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Feb 1 11:35:40 EST 2010

US frame-up of Aafia Siddiqui begins to unravel

Pakistani victim of rendition and torture


By Ali Ismail
1 February 2010

Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui went on 
trial in a federal courtroom in New York City on 
January 19, charged with the attempted murder of 
US personnel in Afghanistan’s Ghazni Province in 
2008. The case against Dr. Siddiqui, 37, is 
rapidly unraveling due to lack of evidence and 
discordant testimony from witnesses.

It is becoming increasingly evident that the 
charges amount to a frame-up that has been staged 
to cover up the fact that Siddiqui, along with 
her eldest son, had been held without charges in 
the US military’s notorious Bagram prison in 
Afghanistan between 2003 and 2008 where they were 
subjected to torture. Two of Dr. Siddiqui’s younger children are still missing.

According to the account given by US authorities, 
Aafia Siddiqui was taken into custody by Afghan 
security services in July of 2008 after they 
alleged having found a list of US targets for 
terrorist attacks as well as bomb-making instructions and assorted chemicals.

Despite these claims, Siddiqui is not charged 
with any terror-related offenses. Instead, she is 
indicted for allegedly having seized an automatic 
weapon and fired on her Afghan and American 
captors when a group of FBI agents and US Army 
officers arrived to collect her. The most serious 
charge against her is using a firearm in 
committing a felony, the gun in question being a US soldier’s rifle.

Siddiqui was shot twice in the stomach and barely 
survived after medics at Bagram air field had to 
make an incision from her breastbone to her 
bellybutton to remove the bullets. It was 
reported that part of her intestines had to be removed to save her life.

The accusations against Siddiqui strain credulity 
and have been fervently denied by her relatives, 
her defense attorneys, and human rights 
organizations, all of whom claim that she had 
been held in secret US detention facilities where 
she was physically and sexually abused ever since 
she disappeared off the streets of Karachi in the 
spring of 2003 with her three children, then seven, five, and six months old.

According to the German weekly, Der Spiegel, just 
a few days before she disappeared, Affia Siddiqui 
had contacted her former professor, Robert 
Sekuler, at Brandeis University in search of a 
job, complaining that there weren’t any job 
opportunities in Pakistan for a woman of her educational background.

Dr. Siddiqui is a Pakistani national who was 
educated at Massachusetts Institute of Technology 
and Brandeis University. In July of 2001, she and 
her husband at the time were scrutinized by the 
FBI for their alleged association with Islamic 
charities. Following the events of September 11, 
2001 the couple returned to Pakistan at a time 
when hundreds of Pakistanis and other Muslims 
were rounded up for questioning across the US. 
The family resided in Karachi where Aafia 
Siddiqui was employed at Aga Khan University.

According to the Human Rights Commission of 
Pakistan, Aafia Siddiqui and her children were 
kidnapped by Pakistani intelligence agents on 
their way to the airport in Karachi. Their 
whereabouts remained unknown until Aafia Siddiqui 
and her eldest son, Ahmed, were reported detained 
in Afghanistan in July of 2008, several years 
after their disappearance. While the Pakistani 
Interior Ministry had initially confirmed that 
the abduction had taken place, it later claimed 
to have been mistaken and stated that Siddiqui 
was not in Pakistani custody. This about-face was 
an attempt to conceal the complicity of Pakistani 
intelligence services in the US government’s 
rendition of Siddiqui to Afghanistan and her subsequent ordeal.

Aafia Siddiqui’s sister, Dr. Fauzia Siddiqui, had 
informed the press that she and her mother had 
journeyed to the US in 2003 to meet with FBI 
officials, who had claimed that Aafia Siddiqui 
would soon be released. In Pakistan, Siddiqui’s 
family was repeatedly harassed and received 
numerous death threats from sinister forces 
within the Pakistani ruling elite. The family was 
ordered not to make any public appeals in support 
of Aafia and her three children.

Between 2003 and 2008, when Siddiqui’s 
whereabouts were still unknown, the US claimed 
she was working on behalf of Al Qaeda. In May of 
2004, she was listed by US officials as one of 
the seven “most wanted” Al Qaeda fugitives. The 
US has also spuriously claimed that she is 
married to Ammar al-Baluchi, who is reported to 
be the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 
so-called “mastermind” behind the 9/11 attacks. 
The claim that Siddiqui was married to al-Baluchi 
was based solely on coerced statements made by 
Mohammed, who has been repeatedly tortured.

The US military and the FBI have consistently 
denied that Siddiqui had been in US custody prior 
to her arrest in 2008. In reality, Aafia Siddiqui 
spent the years between 2003 and 2008 at the 
detention facility at Bagram air base, where many 
referred to her as the “Grey Lady of Bagram.”

Around the same time as her staged arrest, the 
British journalist, Yvonne Ridley, had been 
bringing attention to an unknown female detainee 
in Bagram prison who was known as Prisoner No. 
650. In his book, “Enemy Combatant,” Moazzam Begg 
recalled hearing the woman’s piercing screams as 
she was being tortured while he was imprisoned in 
the same facility. According to Ridley, in 2005 
male prisoners at the facility were so disturbed 
by her screams and sobs that they staged a hunger 
strike that lasted for six days.

When she was arrested in 2008, her then 11 
year-old son Ahmed, a US citizen, was by her 
side. The traumatized boy has since been 
repatriated to Pakistan, where he is now living 
with his aunt, Dr. Fawzia Siddiqui. According to 
his aunt, Pakistani authorities have forbidden 
Ahmed from speaking to the news media.

Siddiqui’s appearance has changed markedly since 
2002, according to her lawyers. She has suffered 
a broken nose, is deathly pale, and extremely 
frail, weighing about 100 pounds. When she 
arrived in the US, she was suffering from acute 
trauma, according to her lawyers who were 
outraged that she did not immediately receive the 
urgent medical attention. Siddiqui had been 
suffering from agonizing pain from the wounds she 
had sustained in Afghanistan and was slumped over 
in her wheelchair when she arrived in court in August of 2008.

Her trial was delayed as her lawyers argued that 
she was mentally unfit to participate in her own 
defense. However, prosecutors eventually found 
mental health experts to allege that she was 
faking her condition to escape punishment. Judge 
Richard Berman ruled that she was mentally fit for trial.

The paucity of media attention given to the trial 
is noteworthy, particularly given that Siddiqui 
was listed as a top Al Qaeda suspect. The tabloid 
press in New York City, where the proceedings 
have received limited attention, press has taken 
her guilt for granted, cynically dubbing her 
“Lady Al Qaeda.” The trial is being closely 
watched in Pakistan, where Siddiqui’s ordeal has 
outraged many and has sparked protests around the country.

 From its beginning, the trial has been marked by 
questionable irregularities, and the judge has 
gone out of his way to accommodate the 
prosecutors. Not a single Pakistani journalist 
was granted press credentials for the opening 
statements last Tuesday. Defense attorneys 
protested the robust security measures put in 
place during the trial, which obviously 
reinforces the notion that Siddiqui poses a security threat to the US.

In a clear violation of her rights, Judge Berman 
has repeatedly thrown Siddiqui out of the 
courtroom for what he called her “outbursts”. The 
“outbursts,” were Siddiqui’s anguished claims of 
innocence and protests that she was tortured.

“Since I’ll never get a chance to speak,” she had 
told the court. “If you were in a secret prison, 
or your children were tortured
Give me a little 
credit, this is not a list of targets of New 
York. I was never planning to bomb it. You’re lying.”

The trial has also been marked by contradictory 
testimony from prosecution witnesses, which has 
undermined the case against Siddiqui.

On the third day of the trial, Assistant US 
Attorney Jenna Dabbs displayed several 
photographs of the room where the prosecution 
claims the shooting occurred. However, Carlo 
Rosatti, an FBI firearms expert who investigated 
the case, acknowledged last Friday that he had 
found “no shell casings, no bullets, no bullet 
fragments, no evidence the gun [the soldier’s M-4 
rifle] was fired.” The only shell casing from the 
scene was from a 9-milllimeter pistol with which 
Siddiqui was shot. On the fourth day of the 
trial, another FBI agent testified that the FBI 
never found Aafia Siddiqui’s fingerprints on the M-4 rifle.

The warrant officer who shot Siddiqui also took 
the stand, recounting the version of events laid 
out by the prosecution. He claimed that on the 
day he and his colleagues went to collect 
Siddiqui, she suddenly got a hold of his rifle 
and aimed it at US personnel, at which point he 
opened fire with his 9-millimeter pistol.

When Siddiqui yelled out, “I never shot it,” she 
was tossed out of the courtroom for the remainder of the day.

The unnamed warrant officer, who had hobbled to 
the stand using a cane, was also permitted to 
recount how he was wounded in a recent and 
totally unrelated roadside bombing in 
Afghanistan, shedding tears as he did so. While 
having absolutely no relevance to the trial, the 
soldier’s wounds were invoked as part of a brazen 
attempt by prosecutors to sway the jury. Judge 
Berman’s allowing the testimony demonstrates the rigged character of the trial.

Sensing that Siddiqui was indeed emotionally 
unstable, prosecutors moved to force her to 
testify in the hopes that she would incriminate 
herself. Defense attorneys argued that she wasn’t 
mentally fit to take the stand. Once again, Judge 
Berman sided with the prosecution.

Berman warned Aafia Siddiqui that she is not 
permitted to speak about events prior to her 
arrest in July of 2008. Nevertheless, on Thursday 
Siddiqui repeatedly told the jury that she was 
held in secret prisons by US authorities, 
according to the Associated Press of Pakistan. 
She told the jury how she was shot just after she 
peeked through a curtain in search of an escape 
route. She added that it would be ludicrous to 
believe that a soldier would leave his gun where 
an allegedly dangerous suspect could get a hold of it.

“It’s too crazy,” she said. “It’s just ridiculous. I didn’t do that.”

When asked by a US Attorney about the contents of 
her purse which allegedly contained chemicals, 
bomb-making instructions, and a list of US 
targets, Siddiqui said, “I can’t testify to that, 
the bag was not mine, so I didn’t necessarily go 
through everything.” Siddiqui’s lawyers have 
claimed the bag and its contents were planted 
evidence. Her attorney, Elaine Whitfield Sharp, 
said back in 2008 that Siddiqui had been carrying 
what amounted to “conveniently incriminating evidence.”

“Of course they found all this stuff on her. It 
was planted on her. She is the ultimate victim of 
the American dark side,” another one of her 
attorneys had told the Associated Press in 2008.

Siddiqui also told the jury that her children 
were constantly on her mind and that she was 
disoriented at the time of her arrest in 2008.

On Friday, the prosecution called Gary Woodworth 
of Braintree Rifle and Pistol Club in 
Massachusetts to testify. Woodworth claimed that 
Siddiqui had taken a 12-hour pistol course at 
some point in the early 1990s. The Associated 
Press of Pakistan reported that Woodworth was 
noticeably distressed when the defense team 
demanded to know how it was possible for him to 
recall a specific individual from two decades 
earlier, when he’d had hundreds of students. 
Woodworth admitted that he had no records or 
documentation to back up his assertions, 
insisting that he was good at remembering faces.

Also on Friday, FBI Special Agent Bruce Kamerman 
testified that Siddiqui grabbed the assault rifle 
in a fit of rage. However, he appeared to be 
flustered when one of Siddiqui’s attorneys 
produced his hand-written notes in which there 
was no mention of her grabbing the gun.

In spite of the obviously fabricated character of 
the prosecution’s case, there is no guarantee of an acquittal.

Even if she is found not guilty, the fate of 
Aafia’s Siddiqui’s other two children, Mariam and 
Suleman, remains unknown. Siddiqui recounts that, 
while she was held in solitary confinement for 
five years, she was endlessly forced to listen to 
recordings of her screaming, terrified children. 
Her baby, Suleman, she said, was taken away from 
her immediately, never to be seen again. She said 
her daughter Mariam was occasionally shown to 
her, but only as an obscure figure behind a sheet of opaque glass.

The horrifying case of Aafia Siddiqui and her 
three children is but one example of the criminal 
and inhuman practices of US imperialism and its 
ally, the Pakistani bourgeoisie. Hundreds if not 
thousands of Pakistanis have been kidnapped by 
Pakistani intelligence services and handed over 
to US personnel to be dispatched to Bagram, 
Guantanamo and other “black site” torture 
chambers around the globe. While the Pakistani 
government now claims to be doing everything in 
its power to bring Siddiqui back to Pakistan, its 
supposed efforts are little more than damage control.

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