[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 
<http://writ.news.findlaw.com/mariner/>FindLaw's archive.

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