[Ppnews] Pakistani scientist guilty in US servicemen attacks
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Feb 3 15:54:22 EST 2010
Pakistani scientist guilty in US servicemen attacks
By Luis Torres de la Llosa (AFP)
NEW YORK A US-educated Pakistani woman was
found guilty Wednesday of trying to kill American servicemen in Afghanistan.
Aafia Siddiqui, 37, a neuroscientist trained at
the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, was found guilty on all charges by a jury in federal court.
A family lawyer immediately announced an appeal, citing "prejudice and bias."
Siddiqui was accused of grabbing a rifle at an
Afghan police station where she was being
interrogated in July 2008 and trying to gun down a group of US servicemen.
Although she was not charged with terrorism,
prosecutors described her as a would-be terrorist
who had also plotted to bomb New York.
Her lawyers tried to prove she was insane, but a
judge ruled her fit to stand trial.
Tina Monshipour, an attorney for Siddiqui's
family, said afterwards: "This verdict is being subject to an appeal."
"There were a lot of unfair decisions,"
Monshipour said. "She was portrayed as a
terrorist even if there were no terrorism charges
in this trial. This is one of those cases in
which we see prejudice and bias invade the courtroom."
Siddiqui, wearing a white veil, repeatedly
disrupted her trial with outbursts at the jury,
witnesses and her own lawyers, including claims
that she was a victim of Israel.
After being found guilty, she responded in
similar fashion, saying: "This is a verdict from
Israel, not America. The anger should be directed where it belongs."
The trial has drawn widespread attention because
it is the most advanced in a string of current
cases being handled by US prosecutors in what is
frequently referred to as the "war on terror."
Several other suspects in alleged bomb plots are
working their way through the system, and Khalid
Sheikh Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of
the September 11, 2001 attacks, is also due to be
tried -- possibly in New York.
A frail-looking woman who excelled in her US
studies, Siddiqui featured on a 2004 US list of
people suspected of Al-Qaeda links. She is also
said to have married a relative of Mohammed, although this is disputed.
Prosecutors claimed that Siddiqui was arrested by
Afghan police in the town of Ghazni with notes
indicating plans to attack the Statue of Liberty and other New York landmarks.
However, she was charged only with attempted murder.
Prosecutors said she picked up a rifle in the
police station where she was being held and
opened fire on US servicemen and FBI
representatives. She missed and was herself shot by one of the US soldiers.
Defense lawyers argued there was no physical
evidence, such as finger prints or gunpowder
traces, to show Siddiqui even grabbed the rifle, let alone opened fire.
Human rights groups have long speculated that
Siddiqui may have been secretly imprisoned and
tortured at the US base in Bagram, Afghanistan,
during the five years prior to the 2008 incident.
The US military has denied she was ever held at the base.
Siddiqui was living in Pakistan when she vanished
in March 2003. This was at a time of intense
efforts by US-backed Pakistani security forces to
root out Al-Qaeda, and relatives believe she was
grabbed in one of these operations.
It remains unclear where she went during that period.
Siddiqui appeared to refer to the rumors during
her trial, protesting during one of her
outbursts: "If you were in a secret prison...
(where) your children were tortured."
Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.
The Trial of Aafia Siddiqui
<http://writ.news.findlaw.com/mariner>By JOANNE MARINER
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Aafia Siddiqui, the MIT-educated Pakistani woman
on trial in federal court in Manhattan for
attempted murder, is now awaiting a verdict in
her case. After ten days of testimony in the
trial, jury deliberations began on Monday
afternoon. As of Wednesday morning, the jury had not yet reached a verdict.
The events for which Siddiqui is on trial are
dramatic, but even more dramatic is the backdrop
to the case. Siddiqui, who is believed to have
married alleged 9/11 plotter Ammar al-Baluchi in
early 2003, disappeared in Karachi, Pakistan, in
March of that year. Her family claims that she
took a taxi to Karachi airport, together with her
three children -- Ahmed, age 6, Mariam, age 4,
and Suleman, age 6 months and then vanished.
Al-Baluchi disappeared in April 2003 himself. A
wanted terrorism suspect, he was whisked into the
custody of the Pakistani intelligence services,
who were working closely with the CIA in the "war
on terror." He didn't reappear until September
2006, when he and thirteen other so-called
"high-value detainees" were moved from secret CIA detention to Guantanamo.
Human rights organizations like Human Rights
Watch thought that Siddiqui, too, was likely
being held in secret by the CIA. But while many
other "ghost detainees" reappeared in 2006 --
either at Guantanamo, Bagram, or in the custody
of other governments -- she did not.
Her whereabouts remained a mystery until July
2008, when she and her oldest son surfaced in the
custody of the Afghan police, having been
arrested in Ghazni, Afghanistan. The day after
her arrest, while she was detained at a police
station, she allegedly picked up an unattended
rifle and fired at a group of FBI agents, US
soldiers, Afghan police and translators. No one
was hurt except Siddiqui herself; she was shot by one of the soldiers.
The details of those two days in July have been
parsed through at trial over the past two weeks.
The jury has heard from eyewitnesses to the
incident, ballistics experts, and crime scene
investigators. But crucial parts of Siddiqui's story are missing.
A trial's narrative is always tightly
circumscribed by the rules of evidence and the
demands of relevance. In this instance, however,
the constraints of the trial narrative have
seemed especially limiting. Not only has the
question of whether Siddiqui spent months or
years in a secret prison not been thoroughly
explored, the fate of her two missing children has not been clarified.
"If You Were in Secret Prisons"
To the extent that claims about a secret prison
surfaced at trial, it was largely because
Siddiqui herself sometimes in courtroom
outbursts raised them. Siddiqui's defense
lawyers did little to draw out information about
Siddiqui's possible CIA detention, and the
government clearly wanted the topic to go away.
If Siddiqui's lawyers had wanted to explore the
question, they faced two major obstacles. First,
the government was uncooperative; it refused to
provide any information about the Bush
administration's system of secret CIA detention,
claiming that such information was classified.
Second, Siddiqui did not cooperate with her legal
team, leaving them without a possible firsthand source of information.
The issue nonetheless arose on the very first day
of trial. Captain Robert Snyder, a US Army
officer who was stationed in Ghazni at the time
of Siddiqui's arrest, was describing the
documents that Siddiqui was said to be carrying
when she was arrested. For much of the morning,
Siddiqui had rested her head on the defense
table, suggesting that she was not paying close
attention to the testimony. But as Snyder began
listing the writing on some of the documents
words like "dirty bomb," "lethal radiation,"
"deadly fallout," "Empire State Building,"
"Brooklyn Bridge" Siddiqui suddenly interrupted him, upset.
"If you were in secret prisons," she said, her
voice growing louder, "[and] your children were
tortured ... " As the judge motioned for her to
be removed from the courtroom, she continued:
"This is not plans for New York City; I was never
planning to bomb it! You're lying!"
The subject came up again the next week when
Siddiqui herself was on the witness stand, tense
and uncomfortable under grilling by the
prosecutor. During direct examination by one of
her defense attorneys, the topic of secret
prisons did not arise, but when the prosecutor
started to discuss the documents that had
allegedly been in Siddiqui's possession, Siddiqui interrupted her.
"If they're in a secret prison, they see their
children tortured in front of them ... "
"That's not responsive," the judge ruled, after
the prosecutor complained. "Strike the testimony."
"You Told Special Agent Sercer That You Had Been in Hiding for Several Years"
Later in Siddiqui's cross-examination, the
prosecutor came up with a very different version
of how Siddiqui spent her missing years.
Describing Siddiqui's conversations with an FBI
agent who spent time with her at Bagram Air Base
while she was receiving medical care there, the
prosecutor challenged Siddiqui's story of secret detention.
"At Bagram," the prosecutor insisted, "you told
Special Agent Sercer that you had been in hiding for several years."
The prosecutor got a chance to develop the story
further when Special Agent Sercer, an FBI
intelligence analyst, took the stand. Asked
whether Siddiqui had discussed her whereabouts
during the years before her 2008 arrest, Sercer
said that Siddiqui had said she'd been in hiding.
"She would move from place to place," Sercer said
Siddiqui had told her. "She married someone so
that her name would be changed. She stayed indoors a lot."
Sercer's version of the story coincides with what
Siddiqui's first husband, from whom she divorced
in 2002, has told journalists. He claims that
Siddiqui was seen at her house in the years
between 2003 and 2008, and that he himself saw her in Karachi.
A Diversion or a Crime
In his closing argument, the prosecutor dismissed
Siddiqui's references to torture and secret
prisons, calling them "a classic diversion." The
case "isn't about that," he insisted: It's about
what happened in a police station in Ghazni, Afghanistan.
But there's no doubt that as the members of the
jury deliberate, they'll be wondering about what
happened to Siddiqui well before she arrived in
Ghazni. If the present trial is not the right
place for solving that conundrum, a better option should be found.
Joanne Mariner is a lawyer with Human Rights
Watch. Her columns for FindLaw are available in
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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