A US court on October 9, 2014, allowed Dr Aafia Siddiqui to withdraw what could be the last appeal of her conviction on charges of attempted murder.
US District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan said that Siddiqui, who is serving an 86-year sentence in a prison medical center in Texas, had ‘clearly and unequivocally’ stated her intent to end the appeal.
The Judge ordered the case closed and said that, even if the appeal had continued, he likely would have ruled against her. Siddiqui was represented at trial by an able team of five lawyers, Berman wrote. He declined to hold a hearing to question her further. In May, a new lawyer filed the appeal on Siddiqui’s behalf, but in July Siddiqui wrote a letter to Berman saying she had no faith in the US legal system and refused to participate in it.
A jury convicted Siddiqui in 2010 of attempting to shoot and kill a group of FBI agents, US soldiers and interpreters who were about to interrogate her in Ghazni, Afghanistan, for alleged links to al Qaeda.
On Nov 5, 2012, the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York upheld the conviction and 86-year prison sentence of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, 40, for shooting at FBI agents and soldiers after her arrest in Afghanistan.
The Court said a lower court judge had not erred in allowing Aafia Siddiqui to testify in her own defence at trial and in allowing certain evidence against her.
Siddiqui was sentenced by US District Judge Richard Berman in September 2010. She was convicted by a New York federal jury of attempted murder, armed assault and other charges.
She was arrested in July 2008 by Afghan police, who said she was carrying 900 grams of sodium cyanide and crumpled notes referring to mass casualty attacks and New York landmarks.
The day after her arrest, she grabbed an M-4 rifle in her interrogation room and started shooting while yelling “death to America,” the trial jury heard.
No US agents or soldiers were hit, but Siddiqui was shot and wounded in response, according to US prosecutors.
Siddiqui’s defense lawyers, three of whom were paid by the Pakistani government, argued that their client had shot at the US officials in a panic and said the crime lacked any connection to terrorism.
On appeal, her attorneys challenged her conviction and sentence on many grounds. They said the judge improperly allowed jurors to consider the crumpled notes, and that the judge should never have allowed Siddiqui to decide whether to take the stand.
“The district court went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that Siddiqui understood the implications of testifying and had the capacity to testify,” the opinion said.
Dawn Cardi is one of Siddiqui’s attorney.
The appeals court also sided with Berman in finding that Siddiqui had likely premeditated the attack, and that terrorism sentencing requirements were applicable because of her willingness to harm Americans.
The severity of her sentence raises yet another question in a case already riddled with them: what is Siddiqui really being held accountable for? Is life imprisonment justified for firing at a handful of FBI agents and soldiers, none of whom were killed or injured? These questions will only add to the air of murkiness that still surrounds the case.
The circumstances of her arrest and the nature of her crimes and the conduct of her trial remain problematic.
Where was Siddiqui between 2003 and 2008? Was she in Pakistani or American custody? If so, is the story of her arrest in 2008 real?
If she wanted to carry out a terrorist attack against America, and possessed plans to do so when captured, why was she only charged with the crime of firing a gun at American officials after her arrest?
The problem with all this uncertainty is that it creates the impression that US authorities are hiding something, which raises doubts about the fairness of Siddiqui’s custody and trial.
The Pakistani government is also not been particularly forthcoming about her whereabouts prior to 2008. After four years of unanswered questions and a sentence that seems out of proportion to the charges that have been framed, the Aafia case will continue to be a lightning rod for anti-American sentiment in Pakistan.
Earlier, on February 10, 2012, the court-appointed attorneys (who are paid by the US government, and Aafia has repeatedly attempted to fire), argued before a US Court of Appeals on behalf of Aafia Siddiqui, although against her will.
This mockery of justice is simply yet another example of how Aafia’s conviction of a crime she did not commit is virtually guaranteed in the US justice system. Meanwhile, US agents who have perpetrated crimes against her, including kidnapping, torture, assault, and false imprisonment, have not been called to account.
It has now been years since agents of the US government shot Aafia Siddiqui and the beginning of the 11th year since she was abducted from Pakistan through a rendition operation locked up in Afghanistan, and forcibly removed from Afghanistan after an implausible shoot out, and illegally transferred her to the US.
So-called “high-profile” American criminal defense attorneys convinced the government of Pakistan to pay them millions of dollars, and then refused to resign when Aafia did not accept them. Neither did the Pakistani Government intervene. There can no longer be any doubt that Aafia will never receive justice in the US legal system.
Prosecutors called Siddiqui a cold-blooded radical who deserves life in prison.
Dr Siddiqui, who was present in the court, said that she wants no bloodshed over her conviction and sentence.
Reacting angrily to the sentence, her sister Dr. Fouzia Siddiqui at a press conference in Karachi, also addressed by her mother, blamed Pakistani rulers for the sentence. “The Pakistani rulers failed to honor their promises to bring Dr. Afia back to Pakistan.”
Aafia Siddiqui (born March 2, 1972, in Karachi, Pakistan) is an American-educated Pakistani cognitive neuroscientist was convicted after a jury trial in a U.S. federal court.
Pakistan’s Minister for Interior Rehman Malik who loves the media limelight said earlier the same day that all out efforts would be made to bring back Dr Siddique back to Pakistan. He said, “Dr. Afia is daughter of the nation and the government is utilizing all possible channels to bring her to back to Pakistan.” He added that a letter has been dispatched to US for the repatriation of Dr Siddiqui and that she should be deported to Pakistan under UN Convention for exchange of prisoners on humanitarian grounds. He said that President Zardari and PM Gilani have discussed the issue with all the delegations who had visited Pakistan from time to time.
The Minister said the government and opposition is also considering to bring joint resolution on the issue of Dr Siddiqui in the Parliament.
To a question he said the government had ordered an inquiry that from where Dr Siddiqui was lifted by US and even if she had been lifted from Afghanistan, under the international law, the country is bound to hand her over to the concerned country. He had nothing to say as to what was he doing for the past two and a half years since he became the Interior Minister, and as to why he has woken up now to order such an inquiry.
“I know this is not the verdict of American people, I know where it is coming from.”
Elaine Sharp, a defence attorney, came out of the court room to tell reporters that Ms Siddiqui had asked her to request the people of Pakistan to remain calm and that she has faith in the Almighty.
According to an attorney familiar with the case, Ms Siddiqui’s own testimony against the advice of her attorney’s could have contributed to her conviction.
Pakistan voiced dismay over the verdict. “We are dismayed over the unexpected verdict of the jury in Dr. Aafia Siddiqui’s case,” Pakistan’s Embassy in Washington said in a statement. “The government of Pakistan made intense diplomatic and legal efforts on her behalf and will consult the family of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and the team of defense lawyers to determine the future course of action,” it said. “The government will do all that is needed to provide justice to her as a Pakistani citizen,” it said.
On January 28, 2010, Dr Aafia Siddiqui being tried on charges she tried to kill Americans while she was detained in Afghanistan in 2008 had told a jury that she didn’t picked up a gun or fire it. ”This is crazy,” Aafia Siddiqui testified when cross-examined about the accusations at her attempted murder trial in Manhattan. ”It’s just ridiculous. … I never attempted murder, no way. It’s a heavy word.”
On Jan 14, 2010, a 16-member jury was chosen for Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s trial next week, as the Pakistani neuroscientist repeatedly interrupted questioning of potential jurors about the Sept 11 terrorist attacks.
On July 29, 2009, the US District Judge Richard M. Berman ruled that Dr Afia Siddiqui is competent to stand trial, and rejected the finding of a defense expert who concluded she was mentally ill. He based his ruling largely on the findings of three other experts who concluded the woman was faking mental illness to evade trial or improve the chance she would be returned to Pakistan. Her trial is set for Oct. 19.
The mental status of Dr Aafia Siddiqui was discussed in detail at an ‘in-camera’ proceeding in the hearing in the Court of US Federal Judge Richard Berman of the US District Court in Manhattan, New York on July 3. The hearing was then adjourned to July 6.
On June 10, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US met Afia Siddiqui in Texas. He promised to provide her with lawyers and counsellors of her choice. She was in good spirits, according to the Ambassador, but worried about the outcome of her case.
In the New York Jail six masked men tied her hands behind her back, stripped her naked and made her video film. While being taken back to her cell in a wheelchair a woman covered her with a blanket and begged the masked men not to humiliate Dr Afia Siddiqui.
In response to a question about the nature of security checks, Dr Afia said many a times she was stripped for security check in the New York jail and due to that humiliation she even stopped seeing her lawyer. She despised being stripped for security checks.
The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas met Dr Afia Siddiqui on October 7, 2008 at Carswell, Fort Worth, Texas, USA. The meeting was attended by Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Senator S M Zafar, Senator Muhammad Talha Mahmood, Senator Ms Saadia Abbasi, Iftikhar Ullah Babar, secretary committee/additional secretary and Faqir Syed Asif Hussain, consular, Pakistan embassy, Washington DC.
According to the report, she had been shifted to the Federal Medical Centre at Carswell, Texas for psychological tests and treatment. “She loses track of time and occasionally does not recall names and events. In the medical centre she was also being treated for some gynecological problem. Her gynecologist is a male, while psychologist is a female. She also informed of stone formation in one of her kidneys. According to her a different form of interrogation had begun at the centre but generally conditions were better compared to the New York jail. However, she alleged that she could be killed due to administration of regular injections for speeding her memory loss,” adds the report.
In reply to a question by Senator S M Zafar as to what message she has for the people in Pakistan, she requested that Pakistan should not hand over its citizens to the US for interrogation. She said that when she narrates her story, Pakistan should change its foreign policy. Dr Afia was against some clergy in Pakistan and alleged that they did not work for Pakistan.
Senator Saadia Abbasi asked if she wanted the delegation to seek permission for any of her family members to visit her in the US, Dr Afia responded that she did not want any member of her family to travel to the US, as she wanted to go back to Pakistan.
When asked by Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed whether she got married to Ammar Ali Balochi, as had been alleged by some US official quarters, she denied knowing Ammar Ali Balochi let alone being married to him. Ammar Ali Balochi is presently under detention at Guantanamo.
Dr Afia Siddiqui wanted to meet her children. Whenever she felt hopeless she wanted to die. Her brother, who lives in Houston, had talked to her only once. She wants to go back to her country and serve her people. Once back in Pakistan, she would teach Quran differently. She had fasted during the holy month of Ramazan.
She replied in the negative when Senator Mushahid Hussain asked whether the identity of the delegation was disclosed to her before the meeting. The members of the delegation encouraged her not to lose hope and think positively. Since she was frail, they also advised her to eat properly and take care of her health. Senator Mushahid told Dr Afia Siddique that in 2009 she would be in Pakistan. When the delegation said ‘Khuda Hafiz’ (goodbye) to Dr Afia, and was about to leave the meeting hall, tears rolled down her cheeks. Before leaving, Senator Mushahid Hussain told her that the entire Pakistani nation was solidly behind her. He said, “There is no charge of terrorism against you and we will seek your release and repatriation to Pakistan.”
Earlier, at the gate of the medical centre the delegation was received by a senior federal representative and security officials of the centre. The members of the delegation passed through security check similar to the one carried out at airports in the US and Europe. During the delegation’s meeting with Dr Afia, the US officials stayed at a distance and did not interrupt the meeting or impose any time restriction. The meeting lasted for two hours and 45 minutes. Dr Afia was brought to the meeting with respect and dignity, without any handcuffs and shackles.
The members informed Dr Afia that the delegation was sent by parliament, backed by the Government of Pakistan and that she had their full support. Dr Afia Siddiqui asked the delegation if America had attacked Pakistan, to which the members replied in the negative. Dr Afia said that all she remembered was that she was traveling in a taxi to her maternal uncle’s house and later found herself in Bagram, Afghanistan. The delegation asked why she had to leave her home to which she replied that at that time she did not enjoy good relations with her mother due to Afia’s divorce from her husband. She did not know where she was taken as she had problem recollecting and reconciling dates and places.
In Bagram, she was physically tortured, however, the Afghans did not humiliate her. Her three children, two sons and a daughter (Ahmad, Suleman and Maryam) were taken away. She was told that her children would be returned only if she confessed to meetings with certain people. She however did not disclose the names of the said people to the delegation. She agreed and feared that this forced confession could go against her in Pakistan. She also feared that her third child, a son by the name of Suleman, might have been killed. She alleged that at Bagram one of the interrogators was an Indian, who was her contemporary at MIT and was interested in her research work.
They explained her wounds by saying that a day after her arrest she took an M4 rife which belonged to US military personnel and fired two rounds at close range, which missed, and she had to be shot in the torso.
Due to a bullet wound and removal of one kidney, Dr. Afia Siddiqui health was in a serious condition when she was flown to the United States, but no medical assistance was provided to her whilst she was been in American custody in New York.
It is reported that she was brought to Pakistan in February 2008 to convince her to become a government witness against Khalid Shiek Mohammad – a high profile Al-Quaida leader and allegedly one of the masterminds of the September 11 attacks, who has been detained in Guantanamo Bay prison. As the case against Khalid Shiekh Mohammad is about to start the American forces need the assistance of Dr. Afia Siddiqui to convict him.
In addition, although one son is with Dr. Afia but the strong whereabouts of her two other children still remain unknown. Her two children who remain missing were not with her when she was shifted to a governor’s house in Afghanistan, for a brief stop over prior to her journey to New York, under heavy security. When she was being taken aboard a special plane there was no female security officer to provide support or assistance to her, and it was reported she fell down at least two times.
On August 16, the US envoy to Pakistan made a public statement saying that the US had no “definitive knowledge” of the whereabouts of Aafia’s children but only a few days later the Afghan authorities revealed that an 11-year-old boy had also been “arrested” with Aafia and this boy was then repatriated to be received byAafia’s family as her eldest son.
One could smell a rat here: a person of such prominence as US envoy is unlikely to risk a misleading statement unless the stakes are really high. Aafia’s son, finally repatriated by Afghan authorities, cannot recall much and is having nightmares. Did the authorities deny knowledge of his whereabouts initially because at that time they were brainwashing him and were still unsure that it would work?
It seems as if the US authorities knew that this story won’t stand a test in the court and their real strategy was to buy time for declaring Aafia mentally unfit or perhaps even to induce mental disorder while in custody.
The story narrated about this alleged episode is not plausible, and contradictions self-evident. Yet Aafia has been suffering pain and humiliation in US prison for more than two months now. There are fears that she is now being brainwashed in order to render her incapable of giving evidence against any atrocities that might have been committed against her.
Three Anomalies in the Trial
Basically: (a) victim has become the accused; (b) allegations are not being addressed in proper order; and (c) allegations against US authorities by human rights groups and concerned citizens are going un-addressed.
Her children were not mentioned by FO, but President Musharraf later dropped hint in his autobiography that “arresting” minors and even infant children of accused was part of tactics beingused in the US War Against Terror.
Victim has Become the Accused
Those who say that they hope to get justice from US legal system in this case are overlooking the fact that the trial is not being held to provide justice to Aafia. It is being held against her.
Allegations not Addressed in Proper Order
The case involves three allegations, not one. These need to be addressed in the order in which they appeared:
The FBI’s declaration that it needed Dr. Aafia Siddiqui for interrogation (2003).
Allegations raised by human rights organizations and PakistanTehrik-i-Insaf that Aafia Siddiqui was being illegally detained, raped andtortured by US authorities (with possible compliance of Pakistani authorities) for five years, and that her three minor children were inillegal detention. July 6, 2008 is the high water mark for this allegation.
Allegation raised by US authorities against Dr Siddiqui that she tried to assassinate US army personnel on July 18, 2008. This allegation was brought forth on August 4, 2008.
The first of these has not been legally pursued by authorities even after they admitted having custody of Aafia. Hence it may be considered as dropped.
The second allegation, which is against US authorities, has never been answered seriously except for a flat rebuttal in inappropriate and condescending tone (consider the US envoy’s open letter of August 16).
Now the third allegation is being addressed in a court of law without addressing the second. This leads to great confusion. The victim has been given into the custody of the party accused of committing offenses against her, and mandate is given to them to further curtail her liberties as a “high security risk”.
Let’s understand: it’s not as if US Government said that it would rather like to keep Aafia in a rehabilitation center in America for treatment of torments suffered by her during five-year-long illegal detention. The victim is now in custody of the party accused of committing the following atrocities against her:
- Abduction and illegal detention of the victim
- Abduction and illegal detention of the victim’s minor children
- Attempt of coercing the victim to sign false evidence
- Threatening the victim with murder of her children
- Sexual abuse, rape and torture
- Attempted brainwashing
- Possibly, murder of two of the victim’s minor children
The first step should have been to ensure that the party accused of committing these offenses didn’t have any further access to her with malevolent intent. The opposite has happened.
In the case of rape, the term “victim” is applied to the aggrieved party even before her case is proven true in a court.
Aafia’s transfer from military to civil authorities doesn’t ensure that her abusers have lost influence: responding to journalists’ question about why they didn’t seek bail for Aafia, her lawyer answered, “There’s more in this case than meets the eye.”
What’s Going Wrong Now
Following incidents which can be seen as injustice or malpractice have occurred after August 6, when Aafia was first presented in New York:
Victim was remanded on implausible charges
Bail was not even sought by her lawyers
US envoy gave a questionable statement about victim’s children
It’s possible that the victim’s eldest son was brainwashed before beinghanded over by Afghan authorities
Motion to establish the victim as mentally unfit to stand trial, if accepted,
will disqualify her from giving evidence later against her abusers
At Carswell, the victim can be at risk of being brainwashed or rendered incapable of providing evidence.
Can She Get Justice from US Legal System?
That question will arise only after a case is brought up to seek justice for her. The current trial has been registered against the victim and not against her abusers.
Unfounded speculation is bad but some speculation is required for arriving anywhere in legal matters. Here we are forced to choose between two options:
either the story about Aafia’s alleged arrest and shooting as told by the DOJ is true, or it is false.
The story is not likely to be true. Consider this passage from rejoinder to US envoy’s letter by Kamran Shafi, journalist and former trainer in small arms:
By the way Excellency, if you care to notice, Aafia Siddiquiis about your build and dimensions. May I suggest you get one of your Marines at the embassy to bring you a US army-issue M4 rifle. Now ask him to clear the chamber, affix the magazine, put the rifle on ‘safe’, and place it on the ground which would be the exact position in which Aafia Siddiqui found hers and with which she is alleged to have fired upon the US officer. You may very well fail toeven cock it in 10 seconds, let alone find the safety catch, lift the rifle to your shoulder and fire it.
Charge sheet against Aafia was implausible and inaccuracies could have been exposed through a simple simulation/ demonstration. Yet the American judge gave remand of her person instead of sending her to a hospital as she deserved in view of her condition (she was still bleeding from bullet wounds).
Why should seeking bail be so difficult in a case where the accusation doesn’t pass the test of common sense, let alone legal proceeding? More importantly, why was bail not even sought?
Such speculation sounds harsh but once the DOJ story is rejected there is noway we can pass over it as an “honest mistake”. If the story is false then obviously we are dealing with an unusually ugly and disturbing cover-up of enormous dimensions.
Earlier, on Nov 17, 2008, US District Judge Richard Berman while reporting the results of the evaluation that Dr Aafia Siddiqui is mentally unfit to stand trial, according to her psychiatric evaluation, had adjourned the hearing to Nov 19 to discuss how to proceed with Aafia’s case, including the possible use of medication to treat her.. He said that Aafia is “not currently competent to proceed as a result of her mental disease, which renders her unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against her.”
Her arraignment was delayed after Ms Siddiqui refused to submit to a strip search or cooperate with prison doctors.
On March 30, 2003, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui had disappeared from Karachi along with her three minor children, after leaving her mother’s house in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Karachi, in a Metro-cab to catch a flight for Rawalpindi; she never reached the airport.
The July 3 hearing was scheduled to ascertain Ms Siddiqui’s mental health to stand trial by.
The court appointed doctor, Powell gave his opinion on Siddiqui’s mental status in the presence of Judge Berman and Siddiqui.
Ms Siddiqui returned to New York from Fort Worth (Texas) where she was sent for mental evaluation.
Siddiqui’s court appointed lawyer, Dawn Cardi, was also present besides a representative of Pakistan Embassy.
During the 30 minute discourse, Judge Berman was informed that Siddiqui was in good physical state. However, her lawyer Dawn Cardi disputed government’s claim.
Last November defense lawyers claimed that Siddiqui who was undergoing court ordered Psychiatric tests was unfit to stand trial. But on March 26 this year, US prosecutors submitted documents to the trial court stating that two independent, government psychiatrists had determined that Ms Siddiqui was ‘malingering’ or faking her symptoms of mental illness.
On July 6, Dr Aafia Siddiqui turned her hearing into a pulpit for telling anyone who would listen that she doesn’t hate America but doesn’t trust its courts. She repeatedly spoke to spectators, a US marshal’s deputy sitting behind her, her lawyers and even a team of five prosecutors and aides in front of her at the start of the afternoon session of the daylong proceeding. They were her first public comments since she was brought to the US from Afghanistan 11 months ago.
‘I want to make peace with the United States of America,’ Siddiqui said to the backs of those at the prosecution table. ‘I’m not an enemy. I never was.’
In court on July 6, she said: ‘I did not shoot anybody. I didn’t fire any bullets.’ Her defence attorney also disputes the US government’s account of what happened in Afghanistan, and a not guilty plea has been entered for Siddiqui. If convicted of the charges, Siddiqui, 37, would face a minimum of 30 years in prison and a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Throughout July 6’s hearing, Siddiqui rubbed her wrists, reddened by what she said was rough treatment by jailhouse guards who forced her to court in observance of the judge’s order that she appear. She pulled a white scarf over her face so only her eyes were seen.
Siddiqui earned an undergraduate degree in biology from MIT in 1995 and a doctorate in neuroscience from Brandeis University in 2001. She left the United States in June 2002 with her three children. She told the FBI that she worked at the Karachi Institute of Technology in 2005, that she tried to look for her husband in Afghanistan in the winter of 2007 and that she stayed for a time in Quetta.
Siddiqui had appeared in court twice after she was brought to the US last August but had refused to attend proceedings since then. US District Judge Richard Berman said he will rule later if she’s competent to stand trial in October.
Newly public court documents contain reports by psychologists who treated Siddiqui after she was arrested in Afghanistan in July 2008 and was charged with taking a gun and shooting at US soldiers and FBI agents. She was shot in the abdomen in the encounter.
Defence lawyers for Siddiqui are challenging her competency for trial, citing the conclusions of an expert who found she is suffering from delusional disorder and depression.
Prosecutors cite reports by psychologists who say Siddiqui’s behavior reflects malingering, the intentional production of grossly exaggerated psychological symptoms aimed at getting a result, such as avoiding trial.
Leslie Powers, a forensic psychologist, wrote in a document dated May 4 and put in the court’s public file late July 2 that new information helps show Siddiqui was living freely in Pakistan and Afghanistan from 2003 to 2008.
Reports prepared by Siddiqui’s psychologists claim that she was living freely in Pakistan and Afghanistan for portions of the five years before her arrest last year, disputing claims that the scientist had spent those years in the custody of foreign authorities.
As opposed to both the above versions, Siddiqui’s supporters and former lawyers maintain she had likely been taken into custody by foreign military intelligence authorities during those years and was subjected to torture, sexual abuse and beatings.
Psychologists say she’s had delusions that include seeing her three children in her cell and being visited by flying infants and dark angels.
L. Thomas Kucharski, a psychologist for the defence, testified Siddiqui suffers from delusional disorder and depression and is unfit for trial. Two mental health experts for the government, Gregory B. Saathoff and Sally C. Johnson, testified she’s fit for trial because her behaviour reflects malingering or grossly exaggerated psychological symptoms aimed at getting a result, such as avoiding trial.
When Johnson testified that Siddiqui had said the judge is a pawn of a Zionist conspiracy and only wants to kill her, Siddiqui turned toward spectators and nodded her head enthusiastically in apparent agreement.
Johnson said Siddiqui’s descriptions of seeing her children in her cell and other events had subsided over the months and an analysis of her recorded conversations with her brother and others had shown that she understood the charges against her and the legal process.
Kucharski testified that her prospects might be worse if she were found incompetent because it could trigger a court order of forced medication to treat symptoms so that she could become competent for trial. And, if her symptoms are not treatable, she could remain institutionalised for life, he said.
The psychologist also wrote that Siddiqui’s ex-husband, Mohammad Amjad Khan, reported seeing either her or their children on several occasions in 2003, 2004 and 2005. ‘While her accounts of her time are incomplete, her statements and other facts gathered seem to corroborate that she was not held captive from 2003 until 2008,’ Powers said.
Powers said Siddiqui was interviewed at length by the FBI for several days after her arrest on July 18, 2008.
She said FBI agents who accompanied Siddiqui on her 20-hour flight to the United States last Aug. 4 reported that she showed no signs of psychosis or psychological distress and that she was fully oriented and talkative throughout the trip.
Powers and two other experts have concluded Siddiqui is competent for trial.
In a defence exhibit, psychologist L. Thomas Kucharski, chairman of the Department of Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, concluded that Siddiqui suffers from delusional disorder and is depressed.
He said her delusions ‘include the belief that the court is part of a conspiracy to have her killed, tortured and/or have her witness the torture of her children.’
He added: ‘She believes that the outcome of her trial is predetermined; that she will get the death penalty and has stated to this evaluator that there is no need to go to trial or work with her attorneys in her defence because of this predetermination. She required that I inform the court to just impose the death penalty or whatever penalty it chooses and to not bother her with the formality of proceedings.’
Gregory B. Saathoff, an associate professor in psychiatric medicine at the University Of Virginia School Of Medicine, said delusions Siddiqui had had involving flying infants, dark angels, a dog in her cell and children visiting her in her room were largely resolved after she believed she was found incompetent to stand trial.
Sally C. Johnson, a professor in the psychiatry department at the University of North Carolina, wrote in a March 16 report that Siddiqui’s medical problems have been treated and stabilized.
Johnson said Siddiqui has given vague accounts of her whereabouts from 2003 to 2008, saying she was given shelter by different people.
Johnson said Siddiqui has also given varying accounts of where her children were during those years but told one agent that sometimes one has to take up a cause that is more important than one’s children.
Johnson left a warning at the end of her report, saying that in spite of Siddiqui’s frail and timid appearance – she has weighed as little as 90 pounds – ‘her potential for aggression towards herself or others might be underestimated.’
She cited reports that Siddiqui had taken actions to try to escape from custody before she was transferred to the United States. Johnson recommended that adequate care be taken to protect Siddiqui.
‘Given her expressed degree of devotion to her belief system,’ she wrote, ‘it is possible that she could perceive herself as a martyr for a cause.’
Before she left court, Siddiqui insisted she’s not paranoid or psychotic and described her fears that her statements on July 6 might be her last.
‘It’s probably the last opportunity I’m going to get,’ she said, noting the possibility she will be subjected to forced medication. ‘I’ve seen people on the drugs. They can’t talk.’
At least twice during the hearing she indicated she will not cooperate with her court-appointed lawyer, Dawn M. Cardi. Cardi said outside court that her client’s behaviour supported her argument that she’s unfit for trial. ‘She’s not making any sense,’ Cardi said. The lawyer noted that Siddiqui had shouted to spectators that she could bring peace to Pakistan and Afghanistan if she were permitted to speak with President Obama. It was an example of grandiose behaviour that supports conclusions that she is delusional, Cardi said. In court, Siddiqui told spectators: ‘The American president wants to make peace. I want to help him. Am I making sense? I’m sincere.’
According to another report the US Federal Bureau of Investigation has been approached by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency for access to Dr Aafia Siddiqui to investigate her alleged links with any terror network. FIA Director General Tariq Khosa called for a probe against Siddiqui’s ex-husband, Mohammad Amjad Khan ‘to get vital information,’ a report in this newspaper said. A source claimed that FIA staff had also sought an interview with one of the Pakistani senators, who recently met Dr Siddiqui in the US.
An Islamic charity organization reported recently it has collected some $70,000 for the defense fund of Siddiqui.
The defendant, Aafia Siddiqui, has “sufficient present ability to consult with her lawyers with a reasonable degree of rational understanding and she also has a rational as well as a factual understanding of the proceedings against her,” Berman wrote.
Over the last year, psychiatric experts who have evaluated Siddiqui have said she reported dramatic hallucinations and delusions involving flying infants, dark angels, a dog in her cell and children visiting her.
One expert noted that the hallucinatory experiences ended abruptly after a psychologist found her incompetent for trial last year after a one-month evaluation. The psychologist later changed her opinion after a six-month study and a review of thousands of documents. “This is an instance where a defendant may have some mental health issues but may nevertheless be competent to stand trial,” Berman wrote.
Mental health experts testified earlier this month in a hearing that was interrupted several times by Siddiqui’s outbursts. At one point during a break, she shouted toward prosecutors: “I want to make peace with the United States of America. I’m not an enemy. I never was.”
The judge noted in his ruling that Siddiqui’s polite and appropriate demeanor during the first two hours of the hearing changed abruptly after a prosecutor asked a witness if he had seen any outbursts from Siddiqui. “Immediately thereupon, Dr. Siddiqui became much more loquacious, outspoken and difficult in the courtroom,” Berman said.
The judge noted that Siddiqui appeared appropriately groomed and in good physical condition at her hearing, entering and exiting the courtroom at an appropriate pace and without assistance.
Her lawyer, Dawn Cardi, did not immediately respond to a message for comment.
Yusill Scribner, a spokeswoman for prosecutors, declined to comment.
The committee decided that Dr Aafia’s sister, Fauzia Siddiqui, would be invited in the next meeting to share details of her sister’s case. It also considered sending a delegation of selected members of the committee to the US to meet Dr Aafia.
Dr Aafia’s detention, madrassa reforms, and a review of the report of the committee’s sub-body on the presence of American private security firm Blackwater in the country were discussed in the meeting.
Of the 16 jurors, 12 will be part of the jury team and four will be alternate team in case someone falls sick. Out of the 12, seven are women and five are men, with four alternate jurors, two men and two women.
“I have nothing to do with 9/11,” Ms Siddiqui declared when a potential juror who cited her personal experience on Sept 11 was dismissed. Dr Aafia suggested Israel was behind the attacks.
Ms Siddiqui’s trial for allegedly shooting at her US interrogators in Afghanistan in July 2008 by grabbing rifle during an interrogation in Afghanistan begins in the US District Court in Manhattan on January 19. She’s not facing terrorism charges.
When Judge Richard Berman quizzed the jury panel whether their 9/11 experiences would influence their deliberations, Ms Siddiqui stood up from the defence table.
“The next question will be on anti-Semitism, Israel was behind 9/11. That’s not anti-Semitic,” she said before being escorted out.
Judge Berman later said that anyone who disrupts proceedings will be removed, but that Ms Siddiqui has a right to be present for her trial and would be allowed to return.
On Jan 13, Ms Siddiqui demanded that Jews should be excluded from the jury at her trial.
Ms Siddiqui has repeatedly said she is boycotting her own trial and has attempted to make her case directly to prospective jurors and the judge.
Dr Aafia Siddiqui, a mother of 3 children is facing trial for, supposedly, wrestling an M-16 away from a CIA torture squad and trying to kill them. How did the CIA get her? They bought her. She was sold to them by a corrupt official in Pakistan as a “terror suspect,” a common problem and a well known ploy in the George Bush phony war on terrorism.
Was she a terrorist? There is no evidence of this, even after years of torture. The only serious crimes we find her guilty of is being a house wife, mother and Islamic and, I forgot, having an education. Her victims? Crippled and 100 pounds, she took on a room full of former Navy Seals, Special Forces and “private interrogators.” The obvious truth, of course: the charges are a fabrication by a pack of cowards and liars.
What do we really know?
We really don’t know anything at all.
Nobody has any evidence that this woman, a scientist educated in the US did anything at all.
There is talk, empty talk about her sending money to charities that might be tied to terrorism. The amount of money is about 2% of a typical payment from one of the Saudi royals that have funded terrorists and suicide bombers for years, but none of them are kidnapped, raped, shot or beaten.
They have oil.
The case against her is made, at length, in the Wikipedia article about her. It is a good read. It makes me proud to be an American. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aafia_Siddiqui
What we see exposed, however, is the slave trade in “terror suspects” created during the Bush Administration fear frenzy when intelligence agencies around the world started dragging innocent people off the streets and selling them to the US for millions of dollars to supply the needed number of “terrorist arrests” to justify wild claims of a successful war on terror continually being made by Dick Cheney, Condi Rice and the rest of the gang.
The crime is an amusing one. A woman who was either just arrested or had been in custody for 5 years, depending on which of her captors you listen to. This should seem like an interesting read:
“On 4 August 2008, shorty after press rumors suggested that Siddiqui had been in Bagram for the last five years, the US government announced that Aafia Siddiqui was arrested on charges related to her attempted murder and assault of United States officers and employees in Afghanistan
The US claims that Siddiqui was not captured in March 2003, that she was arrested on July 17, 2008 outside the home of the Governor of Ghazni.The US account of the July 18, 2008 shooting is that FBI agents, interpreters, and several GIs entered arrived at the Afghan facility where Siddiqui was being held. The personnel entered a second floor meeting room—unaware that Siddiqui was being held there, unsecured, behind a curtain.
The Warrant Officer took a seat and placed his United States Army M-4 rifle on the floor next to the curtain. According to the US account the GIs set down their weapons, whereupon Siddiqui burst from behind a curtain, grabbed an M-4, and opened fire. One interpreter who was accompanying the officers seized the firearm from her.
US officials claim they have no idea where Siddiqui has been in the five years since she was captured on March 17, 2003.
Siddiqui arrived in New York on August 4, 2008, and was presented before a United States Magistrate Judge in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Siddiqui refused to accept the charges. Siddiqui’s lawyer stated that no one can believe the FBI story and that Siddiqui had actually been captured in Karachi, Pakistan along with three of her children.
On August 8, 2008 the Daily Times reported that Aafia was captured in Ghazni with her eldest son, Muhammad Ahmed. The report stated that documents existed that confirmed that Affia and her children had been captured in March 2003.”
This woman and her three children were kidnapped, and illegally held for 5 years under the most brutal conditions imaginable without any legal reason. She had been accused of no crime. After years of imprisonment, rape and torture, she is finally arrested for attacking those who tortured her.
After 5 years of imprisonment, Dr. Siddiqui was a total physical wreck, barely able to walk, and seriously disabled from hundreds of torture sessions. Yet she is accused of overpowering several Navy Seals and US Army Special Forces unarmed combat specialists, seizing a weapon and nearly killing all of them, this at a weight of 100 pounds.
“Nearly killing” is a bit of an overstatement. In fact, nobody was injured at all. The more we investigate this, the more this sounds like an outlandish war story cooked up to file for PTSD. She faces 20 years for this crime and only this crime. Since when was it a crime to attempt to escape from illegal imprisonment? Any American who is illegally detained and imprisoned without due process can’t be charged with a crime for resisting torture or imprisonment.
Attorney General John Ashcroft considered the kidnapping of this woman, along with her 3 children, one of the great victories of the War on Terror. However, after 5 years of interrogation and 7 years of confinement, no charges could ever be filed against her other than trying to single handledly crawl out of her death bed and dispatch a room full of “drug store” Rambo types.
Ashcroft has many success in his career. He is the only person in American history to have lost a seat in the US Senate to a dead man. In an unpublicized but much more interesting case, Ashcroft and his band of merry US Attorneys, in their attempt to rack up arrests for terrorism without doing adequate homework actually managed to drag in an entire CIA intelligence organization which had, until broken up by John Ashcroft and gang, penetrated the highest levels of Al Qaeda.
Not much more can be said, but several top CIA operatives now have the embarassing history of having been arrested for terrorist related charges. Ashcroft and later Gonzales have, through incompetence, done more to cripple US intelligence efforts than any group other than the Mossad.
Even the “outing” of CIA nuclear proliferation specialist Valerie Plame, believed to be responsible for North Korea getting nuclear weapons, involved much less utter bungling and inanity.
Nearly every legal expert in the world, including almost universal outrage among the legal community is Israel, has called this one of the most insane acts of abuse of any country that claims to have a functioning legal system and representative form of government.
Even the alleged “suspicious acts,” which are, by the way, buying totally legal and harmless gun accessories, is in itself totally insane. Am I going to have to register that dangerous combat assault flashlight I keep by my desk for when I drop my reading glasses?
Any idiot who goes to gun shows knows that the weapons that small children carry around in Afghanistan are ten times better than the things Americans can get from sporting good stores or thru mail order. Every time an American collector sees a photograph of a Taliban member who owns 2 goats carrying an AK rifle with forged receiver and top quality ART sniper scope, something worth $3000 or more in the US, the insanity of purchasing 3rd rate clone parts in the US to ship to a country that has enough assault rifles to supply the world for centuries begins to sink in.
Where is the NRA and ACLU?
Who is the Victims Here?
These things are obvious. We paid criminals to kidnap an innocent person for cheap public relations gain, elections were coming up and our War on Terror was looking as phony as, well as phony as it actually is. Then, after years of rape and torture, this frail Islamic woman tries to fight back, or so we are told, told by people who imprison innocent people, rape and torture. Are these witnesses we would have in an American court? She already considers herself dead. What human can survive such brutality, injustice, humiliation and abuse. Who are the real victims here? Americans who know nothing of the trial, American who sat silently while this went on, Americans who thought their cowardice was buying them “safety.”
The 37-year-old Siddiqui claimed that she was shot by two men while trying to escape.
”Somebody saw me and said something, a guy standing at the opposite end of the room saw me and shot me. And then another came from here and shot me. And then I just passed out,” she said.
She told jurors her case is an example of how authorities ”frame people,” she said.
Siddiqui, who’s been prone to courtroom outbursts and claims she was tortured in a secret prison, took the stand over the objections of her defense lawyers who said her ”diminished capacity” would turn her testimony into a ”painful spectacle.”
A judge allowed her to testify after prosecutors called her tirades ”opportunistic and calculated.”
The defendant was alternately poised, amusing and combative during about 90 minutes of testimony.
The first question asked by a prosecutor ”You were born in 1972?” got the response, ”If you say so.” She described the charges as being so outrageous that they sometimes ”make me smile under my scarf” a reference to a white scarf covering her head and face. She said that although she’s a scientist, ”I couldn’t kill a rat.”
US authorities’ portrayal is more sinister: They say Siddiqui picked up an unattended US military assault rifle at an Afghanistan police station on July 18, 2008, and fired two rounds at FBI agents and US Army soldiers. She missed and was wounded by return fire.
Prosecutors say the shooting occurred as Siddiqui was about to be questioned a day after she was caught by Afghan police outside a governor’s building. At the time of her arrest, she was carrying instructions for a dirty bomb and a list of New York City landmarks including the Statue of Liberty.
Siddiqui began her testimony by telling jurors she came to the United States to attend the University of Houston.
She later transferred to MIT, where she earned an undergraduate degree in biology, before obtaining a doctorate in neuroscience from Brandeis University in 2001.
She said she left the United States in June 2002 with her three children and returned to her native Pakistan.
Turning to the shooting, Siddiqui testified she was shot shortly after she poked her head around a curtain to see if there was a way she might slip out of the room where she was being held.
She said she was desperate to escape because she had been tortured in a secret prison and feared she would be taken there again.
”I was very confused,” she said. ”I wanted to get out. … I was afraid.”
She not only denied firing the M4 assault rifle, she said when she heard about the allegations she thought, ”What does an M4 look like?”’
After she was shot, she said she heard American voices saying: ”We’re taking this ‘B’ with us. They used the B-word.”
On the way to the hospital, she said she heard others expressing fear she might die. She said one of them said: ”A couple of us are going to lose our jobs.”—AP
On January 27, her defence brought in a forensic expert on Wednesday who testified that there was no evidence that a high-velocity M-4 gun was fired during a 2008 confrontation at an Afghan police station in Ghazni as claimed by the prosecutors.
William Tobin, a former Nasa employee, who testified as a forensic expert, said that in his opinion a photograph showing two holes in the wall were, with “scientific certainty”, not consistent with either a high velocity or low velocity bullet hole. He said they were simply “not bullet holes”. “SS09 bullets would have caused substantially more damage not only to the wall but also to the ceiling,” he testified.
Mr Tobin also said that the firing of an M4 would be such a “devastating event from a material standpoint that there should be a lot of evidence at the scene”.
According to his testimony, FBI officials are trained in gathering even the smallest fragments of evidence, but in the description of the incident given by the government there should have been even large fragments. Despite the fact that FBI officials were present at the shooting, no evidence of M4 shots were collected, neither large fragments nor small ones. Furthermore, no M4 casings, bullets, or residue were found anywhere in the room.
Last week FBI ballistics expert Carlo Rosati, who appeared as a government witness, made a similar statement. According to him, it could not be said with certainty that any shots were fired from the M-4 rifle. The only bullets fired at the scene were from the M-9 pistol that a US Army officer used to hit Dr Aafia.
A family lawyer has already announced an appeal, citing “prejudice and bias” against Siddiqui.
“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,” Ismat Siddiqui said from her home in the Gulshane Iqbal neighbourhood. “The verdict is a humiliation for America. The verdict symbolises the beginning of the downfall of American might,” she added.
Siddiqui’s mother also blamed the Pakistan government, which is a US ally in the war in Afghanistan and which had also expressed dismay over the verdict. “What has happened clearly shows the lack of seriousness on part of our government in getting her released.”
Aafia Siddiqui’s elder sister Fowzia, a doctor, slammed the US justice system. “The verdict shows that American justice system cannot provide justice to innocent people,” she said. “She is innocent… She has never been a staunch religious person but she loved people and other creatures of Allah in distress and never shied away from helping them.” She claimed her sister was set up and kidnapped by Pakistani intelligence on the way to catch a flight from Karachi to Islamabad. “She was picked up by Musharraf’s men while she was on her way to airport to leave Karachi for Islamabad. She was then handed to the Americans, so how can she go to Afghanistan on her own?”
Charles Swift, the lead defence attorney, said after the verdict that “I have faith in American justice system. We will appeal the verdict. I completely disagree with the verdict given”.
Sentencing will be carried out on May 6, Mr Swift said.
However, the jury did not find her guilty on any pre-meditated murder charge. According to her lawyer, Ms Siddiqui could be given a sentence of up to 35 years.
“I myself raised the issues about Doctor Aafia Siddiqui… with various Congress delegations visiting Pakistan,” PM told reporters in Islamabad.
The case provoked outrage in Pakistan, with protests erupting throughout the country after the verdict and Pakistan’s President Zardari ordering his government to provide her with legal assistance in the US.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik told the media that the fingerprints of the young girl did not match the ones present in Nadra data base under the name of Mariam. However, Mr Malik’s statement, which was based on Nadra’s official response, was different from what senior policemen said.
A senior police officer overseeing the investigation stated that Nadra officials had tried to match the unidentified girl’s fingerprints to those present on Mariam’s manual passport issued in 2003. Since the passport was not machine readable, technically it was not possible to match the prints on it to the girl’s passport.
However, SSP Investigation of Zone East Niaz Ahmed Khosa said that the authorities had sent the blood samples obtained from the two children to the Institute of Biomedical and Genetic Engineering (IBGE) in Islamabad. The DNA profiling of the two samples would be carried out to determine if the girl is related to Ahmed. The results may take a week’s time. Since the family was taking care of the young girl, the option of sending the girl to the Darul Amaan had been not considered.
If the results confirmed the young girl is Mariam, she would be formally handed over to the family, the officer said, adding that if she was not Mariam, she would be sent to the Darul Amaan.
An interior ministry official in Islamabad said that the girl was believed to have been kept in captivity in Afghanistan till now.
When asked why the Afghan government had not been contacted to confirm the identity of the girl if she was Dr Siddiqui’s daughter and had been held in Afghanistan, the official said that Kabul had never admitted that the girl was present in that country.
Lawyers made this strange request in a filing in US District Court in Manhattan, where she was convicted in February of two counts of attempted murder in the July 2008 attack on US authorities while she was detained in an Afghan police station.
Apparently, this request would jeopardise Dr Siddiqui’s case as it almost amounts to admission of guilt.
The lawyers said Siddiqui was ”driven” to her crime by mental illness.
”While the degree and extent of Dr Siddiqui’s mental illness has been the subject of much discussion in this case, one thing stands perfectly clear: the victim of Dr Siddiqui’s irrational behaviour is — first and foremost — none other than herself,” the lawyers wrote.
They described her behaviour in Ghazni, Afghanistan, as ”bizarre,” saying Siddiqui was ”cut off from any form of rational thought” by her knowledge that US authorities had engaged in the torture of detainees overseas.
”Cornered in the Afghan National Police compound, and left to her own devices, Dr Siddiqui tried, by any means available, to escape what she viewed as a horrific fate,” the lawyers said.
During Siddiqui’s three-week trial, FBI agents and US soldiers testified that when they went to interrogate her at an Afghan police station, she snatched an unattended assault rifle and shot at them while yelling, ”Death to Americans!”
She was wounded by return fire but recovered and was brought to the United States to face trial.
Siddiqui is scheduled to be sentenced in mid-August but the date is expected to be moved to September or later.
Her jury conviction set off protests in Pakistan, where there is a widespread belief that the charges against her were fabricated.
Siddiqui, trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brandeis University in the early 1990s, left the United States and returned to Pakistan after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Testifying in her own defence at trial, Siddiqui claimed she was tortured at a ”secret prison” before her detention. Charges that she attacked US personnel who wanted to interrogate her were ”crazy,” she said. ”It’s just ridiculous.”
Her lawyers said her behaviour at trial demonstrated her mental illness. They noted that she declared she was boycotting the trial, rejected her lawyers’ advice and subjected the court ”to frequent, nonsensical outbursts.”
After trial, she refused to meet with the probation officer or her lawyers, they said.
The lawyers urged the sentencing judge to reject the probation office’s recommendation that she be sentenced to life in prison, especially since she was never charged with any crimes of terrorism.