[Ppnews] Aafia Siddiqui verdict sparks Pakistan protests

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Feb 4 11:09:54 EST 2010

  Thursday, February 04, 2010
18:56 Mecca time, 15:56 GMT

US verdict sparks Pakistan protests

Thousands of Pakistanis have staged rallies against the conviction of 
a Pakistani scientist found guilty of trying to kill American 
servicemen in Afghanistan.

Protests were held on Thursday in several cities in Pakistan, where 
many believe that Aafia Siddiqui is innocent.

The neuroscientist, branded "Lady Qaeda" by some in the US press, 
disappeared for five years before her arrest in Afghanistan in 2008.

She was convicted in a New York court on Wednesday.

Siddiqui, who was arrested in 2008, was accused of grabbing a US 
serviceman's rifle and opening fire on her American interrogators, 
who returned fire.

While none of the US agents or personnel were injured, Siddiqui was 
shot in the incident.

Siddiqui's relatives condemned the verdict, with Fauzia Siddiqui, her 
sister, saying the verdict had "rejuvenated" the family.

"And we're proud to be related to her," she said, speaking from the 
Pakistani city of Karachi.

"America's justice system, the establishment, the war on terror, the 
fraud of the war on terror, all of those things have shown their own 
ugly faces."

The AFP news agency quoted Ismat Siddiqui, Aafia's mother, who lives 
in Karachi, as saying the family had been braced for the verdict but 
would continue to work for her release.

"I did not expect anything better from an American court. We were 
ready for the shock and will continue our struggle to get her 
released," she was quoted as saying.

Government 'dismayed'

Pakistan's government has expressed "dismay" over the verdict, vowing 
to consult her family and lawyers on how to get Siddiqui released.

Abdul Basit, a foreign ministry spokesman, said the government would 
do its best to secure her release.

"The ultimate objective is to get her back to Pakistan and we would 
do everything possible and we'll apply all possible tools in this 
regard," he said.

Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Islamabad, the Pakistani 
capital, said that as far as public opinion is concerned, the verdict 
is definitely not in favour of the Americans.

"There is also disappointment with the [Pakistani] government for 
failing to find a diplomatic way out and getting Aafia Siddiqui back 
home, because they feel she was innocent."

Before her arrest, Siddiqui had been missing for five years, during 
which time her family alleges she was held at the US military's 
Bagram airbase in Afghanistan.

Both the US and the Pakistani authorities deny that Siddiqui was in 
custody before her arrest in 2008 in the town of Ghazni.

Hyder said: "Many hundreds of people have disappeared from Pakistan - 
they're still not accounted for - and now that Dr Aafia's case has 
come up, that's likely to be a rallying point for the anti-American sentiment."

Trial 'flawed'

Cageprisoners, a UK-based rights group, rejected the verdict, citing 
the fact that evidence about Siddiqui's whereabouts prior to her 
arrest had been disallowed from the trial.

"The case of Aafia Siddiqui carries great significance in terms of 
the ability of the Obama administration to administer justice," Asim 
Qureshi, a spokesman for the group, said, referring to the 
administration of Barack Obama, the US president.

"Already we have seen a blanket refusal to look at the facts of her 
detention prior to 2008, this verdict will only confirm what many 
already believe, that it is impossible for Muslim terrorism suspects 
to receive a fair trial in the US."

At the time of her arrest Siddiqui was allegedly carrying containers 
of chemicals and notes referring to mass-casualty attacks and New 
York landmarks.

But she was not charged in connection with those materials and the 
charges she was convicted of made no mention of terrorism.

During the trial, Linda Moreno, Siddiqui's defence lawyer, argued 
that there was no evidence the rifle Siddiqui was accused of taking 
had ever been fired, since no bullets, shell casings or bullet debris 
were recovered and no bullet holes detected.

Moreno also said the testimony of the government's six eyewitnesses 
contradicted one another.

Siddiqui faces up to life in prison when she is sentenced on May 6.

Her lawyers have said they intend to appeal the verdict.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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