[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 Afghanistans 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 militarys notorious Bagram prison in
Afghanistan between 2003 and 2008 where they were
subjected to torture. Two of Dr. Siddiquis 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 soldiers 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 werent 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 governments
rendition of Siddiqui to Afghanistan and her subsequent ordeal.
Aafia Siddiquis 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, Siddiquis
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 Siddiquis
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 womans 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.
Siddiquis 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 Siddiquis 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 Siddiquis anguished claims of
innocence and protests that she was tortured.
Since Ill 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. Youre 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 soldiers 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 Siddiquis 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
soldiers wounds were invoked as part of a brazen
attempt by prosecutors to sway the jury. Judge
Bermans 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 wasnt
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.
Its too crazy, she said. Its just ridiculous. I didnt 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 cant testify to that,
the bag was not mine, so I didnt necessarily go
through everything. Siddiquis 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 hed 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 Siddiquis 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 prosecutions case, there is no guarantee of an acquittal.
Even if she is found not guilty, the fate of
Aafias Siddiquis 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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