Yvonne Ridley reviews the case of Aafia Siddiqui on the 9th anniversary since she first disappeared
First Published by Cageprisoners, April 02, 2012
I am an investigative journalist and as such details and facts provide the framework from which to build a story. That has been the premise from which I've worked now in this industry for nearly 40 years. It is the same premise from which some great investigative journalists have toiled as they sift through genuine documents, interview primary intelligence sources and delve into eye witnesses accounts to get to the truth of a matter. And it is the same premise from which Cageprisoners operates tirelessly in its pursuit to giving a voice to the voiceless. In the last few decades I've seen many good people sent down for crimes which they did not commit, especially during the so-called Irish Troubles which saw US dollar-funded terrorism wreak chaos and death in the streets of London as well as other major UK cities. During that period I've also seen the same wronged people being released from prison, poorly compensated for their terrible ordeals and miscarriages of justice often followed by a grovelling apologies from the police and Establishment. Groups like the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four know the pain and injustice of being wrongly convicted and in some ways, while the truth eventually set them free, they will forever be haunted by their experiences and lost lives.
I pray I will live to see the day when the US apologises to all of those swept up in the War on Terror, held in dark, secret dungeons without charge or trial. I look forward to the day when American justice attempts to put right all of those it has wronged in the last decade. Perhaps none is more deserving than the academic and mother-of-three Dr Aafia Siddiqui who was given an 86-year sentence by a pompous little New York judge whose relationship with truth and justice is as long distance as is mine with quantum mechanics and classical physics.Judge Richard Berman, either a legal minnow or a Bush marionette, allowed his courtroom to become the venue for a completely illegal show trial.
The facts are as outlined below:
•The alleged crime happened in Afghanistan, a country with its own judicial system and - unless it is under official US occupation - the trial should have been held there.•The defendant, born in Pakistan and a citizen of that country, was denied access to consular officials in Afghanistan or New York for more than 30 days after being shot in July 2008 - this is a complete violation of the Vienna and Geneva conventions.•The defendant was interrogated by the FBI while heavily sedated hours after major surgery was performed in Bagram - this is in complete contravention of US and international laws.•One independent Afghan witness, a transator/guide for the FBI, was bribed with a green card and the promise of US citizenship to lie under oath in court.•Spent bullets removed by US investigators from the prison cell where the alleged crime took place, were subsequently lost while other crucial evidence was tampered with.•Evidence from a secret court hearing held in the USA in 2003 about Dr Aafia Siddiqui was not allowed to be introduced in Berman's kangaroo court. This evidence would have documented that US intelligence knew exactly where Dr Aafia Siddiqui was being held after her disappearance in 2003.•Berman refused to allow any evidence which would have shown that Dr Aafia Siddiqui was set up and subsequently shot in a bungled US intelligence operation in July 2008.
To the prosecution's credit - according to court transcripts and they're there for anyone to check - the lawyers for the US government stated loud and clear that Dr Aafia Siddiqui was not al Qaida, nor was she affiliated to any banned or terrorist organisation. This is a truth some authors and journalists refuse to accept, even though it came directly from the mouth of the chief prosecuting lawyer. Being a good journalist means accepting that there are times when you got it wrong ... peddling old lies and myths serves no one.The whole truth of the Dr Aafia Siddiqui case will come out, of that I am confident. I went to Ghazni with film-maker Hassan Ghani in 2008 and we interviewed and filmed key eye witnesses who to this day will state emphatically that Dr Aafia Siddiqui was shot at close range by US soldiers and, perhaps more crucially, they did so in panic after realising the frail, diminutive woman held in a cell was not hooded, cuffed or restrained. Not one single eye witness - from a local police chief to any of his men - saw Dr Aafia Siddiqui even attempt to pick up a gun and shoot at the US soldiers. We've all watched the CSI American hit TV series based on forensic evidence and science - well not one shred of 'CSI evidence' could be produced in Berman's court to put a gun in the defendant's hands. No gunshot residue was found either on her clothing or on her hands. She could not have fired a gun - the science doesn't lie but sadly some front row witnesses did.
Unfortunately the gaggle of US soldiers, whose evidence contradicted each other in court, covered up the real crime ... that at least one of their rank had shot an unarmed woman at close range. Tellingly, the reputation of the US military serving in Afghanistan is in tatters. Insitutionalised racism and Islamaphobia has spread like cancer in the ranks making them neither credible witnesses or men of honour. While it is unfair to demonise an entire military there are more than just a few rogue soldiers in the ranks of Uncle Sam. I did contact the Pentagon and asked the media spokesman if any of the soldiers who gave evidence in Berman's court against Dr Aafia Siddiqui were part of the notorious "kill team" - a bunch of lying, scuzzbuckets who shot Afghan civilians at random before hacking off their body parts as trophies. Now the Pentagon could have responded with a simple and definitive "no". That call never came and subsequent calls to the press office have since drawn a blank response. I invite other journalists to ask the same question.
On a point of interest most of the Kill Team were sent down for a handful of years with the ring leader given a life sentence and eligible for parole after 10 years for murdering an unknown number of Afghans. Dr Aafia Siddiqui got 86 years for allegedly shooting at soldiers in an incident in which no one but she was injured.
As I say, the truth will come out as long as journalists like myself continue to question, dig and demand to know what really happened to Dr Aafia Siddiqui.
We are now marking the 9th anniversary of her kidnap and false imprisonment and that of her three children. I am hoping this will be the last such anniversary to be marked with candles, prayers and vigils. Justice will prevail but let's hope sooner than later. And until it does Dr Aafia Siddiqui, a brilliant academic, is rotting away in a Texas jail.
* British journalist Yvonne Ridley is a patron of Cageprisoners.
Dr. Aafia Siddiqui - Other Voices
New Booklet Released February, 2012.
Click on image above to view and / or download PDF version of the book.
A contribution of choice can be sent to the publisher:
For more information:
The Peace Thru Justice Foundation
1106 Veirs Mill Road
STE L-15; PMB 298
Silver Springs, MD 20902
February 17, 2012 ~ Febraury 24, 2012
Several events were held across the Republic of South Africa to highlight the case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. The events were coordinated under a "FreeAafia Week" umbrella of events.
Among the high profile guests and speakers was Dr. Fauzia, the sister of Dr. Aafia who participated despite injuries she suffered at the hands of Pakistani security forces in an unprovoked attack on Feb. 10, 2012 in Karachi.
Public response overwhelmed the sponsors with thousands attending the events. All events were sold out in advance.
Full coverage of events and live streaming of speeches was carried on CII Broadcasting:
Dr. Aafia Siddiqui’s cause taking South Africa by stormBy Azhar Vadi Cii News
South Africans have been exposed to the ‘other side’ of the story regarding the US imprisoned Pakistani doctor, Aafia Siddiqui.
The MIT graduate’s sister, Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui is currently on her first tour outside of Pakistan to raise awareness about the plight of Aafia who was sentenced to 86 years in jail in the US for allegedly trying to shoot American servicemen in Afghanistan; a charge her supporters vehemently deny.
Dr. Fowzia was the guest of a South African based satellite radio broadcaster, Channel Islam International (Cii) and was scheduled to remain in the country until February 23. Accompanied by Mr. Altaaf Shakoor of the Pakistani human rights group, Pasban, she attended a fundraising dinner on Friday evening.
The attendees were left emotionally wrecked as Dr. Fowzia took them on descriptive journey detailing the circumstances around Aafia’s upbringing, kidnap, torture, rendition and subsequent trial.
“I have been thrilled by the reception I have received in South Africa,” she told the crowd of 1000 people who paid approximately 250 South African rands (Rs2500) each to attend the fundraising event. “The hugs and kisses have made this very personal for me.”
According Cii programme coordinator, Inayet Wadee, the monies collected will all go towards funding the legal battle to try and get Dr. Aafia freed from US incarceration.
“We all stand united in the face of injustice and we, as peace loving South Africans will contribute in the little way we can,” he said.
Dr. Fowzia brought the crowd to tears as she narrated a version of events regarding the story of Aafia, dispelling what she said were lies and false messages commonly found on internet forums.
“When Aafia went missing, we were lied to by Pakistani politicians…My mother was told that she must remain quiet otherwise she would have four dead bodies,” she said.
British human rights journalist, Yvonne Ridley, eventually discovered Aafia in 2008 at the Bagram Prison in Afghanistan, where reports indicate she underwent severe torture.
“When pressure built on the US and Afghans for the release of Aafia, she was eventually let out and found wondering in Ghazni town before being shot by US operatives. She was then rendered to the US, tried and sentenced brutally for a crime she didn’t commit.”
According to Dr. Fowzia, the judge in the case, Richard Berman, was compelled to issue the harsh sentence of 86 years upon Aafia, because she had exposed the violence and torture she was made to endure while in US custody.
“They made her strip naked and they forced her to walk over the Quraan. She would not be given her clothes back if she did not do it.”
Dr. Fowzia’s travel partner, Altaaf Shakoor, also had the opportunity to address the gathering. “Let the American consulate in South Africa take a message back to their leaders, that we will not stop making effort for the freedom of Aafia,” he said.
“Pakistan has so many sects and groupings, Sunnis, Shias, Pathaan, Punjabis, Barelwis and Deobandis, but we are all united about one thing. That is Aafia,” he added.
The tour of South Africa is expected to continue with more public engagements in the coming week as well as a special visit to the previously ‘blacks only’ community of Soweto which is recognised as the heart of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa.
Dr. Fowzia Siddique meets Nelson Mandela’s confidante Photos and report by: Azhar Vadi 24 February 2012
Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui had the opportunity to meet one of South Africa’s greatest anti-Apartheid struggle heroes as she was hosted by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation on Thursday evening, 23 February 2012.
The meeting saw approximately 30 different faith based groups, non-governmental organisations and activist bodies gather to hear Dr. Fowzia’s explanation of what happened to her sister, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui after her kidnap, disappearance and rendition to the United States.
Ahmed Kathrada has dedicated his life to the principle of non-racialism and equality and is a veteran of the South African liberation struggle. He spent 26 years as a political prisoner on the notorious Robben Island prison as well as the Pollsmoor Maximum Prison. He is a close friend and confidante of South African icon and hero, Mr. Nelson Mandela.
Kathrada has been a long standing member of the African National Congress (ANC), a member of the South African Parliament and an adviser to Mandela during his presidency (1994-1995). He is a highly respected senior of South African politics.
Dr. Siddique started her address by paying tribute to Mr. Kathrada. “I really don’t have the words and I’m overwhelmed with emotions to be sitting next to the person who I consider to be one of the greatest human rights activists and my source of inspiration. This is the person along with Nelson Mandela, who gave me the courage to come and speak for a cause. To speak for justice, peace and freedom,” she told the crowd.
Her narration of events that led to Aafia’s eventual sentencing in the US to 86 years in jail left many of those who attended amazed and baffled. Mr. Koki Singh, a representative of the South African Hindu community said, “My heart goes out you and thank you for sharing your story with us.” He also wanted to know if the South African government and other active South African politicians had been lobbied.
Channel Islam International’s, Inayet Wadee, responded by saying that they had contacted South Africa’s International Relations Department and discussions were underway.
Fowzia was hosted in South Africa by the satellite radio broadcaster.
Another member of the crowd requested information on the role of the Pakistani government and how they have assisted so far.
Dr. Fowzia said, “There are so many misconceptions around the issue of Dr. Aafia that the actual facts get covered. But now I can clarify because we have facts with us…This was an awareness tour to get people to raise their voices along with me. The Pakistani government has helped us recover two of Aafia’s children.”
Mr. Kathrada thanked Dr. Fowzia for coming to South Africa. The foundation will now take an in depth look at the issue of Aafia Siddiqui before issuing a formal statement on the matter.
Dr. Fowzia was scheduled to return to Pakistan on Friday, 24 February 2012, ending her first public tour outside of Pakistan to create an awareness of her sister
Aafia Day Rally in Johannesburg
By: Shaista Abdullah
Friday the 30th of March in Johannesburg started off as a gloomy, foggy and overcast day. Yet, there was a lurking anticipation – Johannesburg was going to witness a rally at the US embassy! Nine years ago, on the 29th of March, an innocent victim of circumstances, Dr Aafia Siddiqui along with her three children was mysteriously abducted from Karachi, Pakistan. Today, she languishes in a US jail sentenced to an 86 year prison term for a crime she did not commit. Humanitarians across the globe joined hands to protest against this injustice and to raise their voices to ask for Aafia's release.Muslims from all over Johannesburg gathered at the Sandton City prayer area: to offer Friday prayers in congregation. Everyone prayed in unison, “O Allah, let our efforts be successful and let Aafia come home”. They moved in a disciplined manner to the US consulate located in downtown Sandton, and took up the designated area around the consulate. The crowd was dominated by women and children: all donned with beautiful purple scarves -Aafia's favourite colour. They were holding white roses -symbolizing peace and unity. The message was clear – “we come in peace and want our sister Dr Aafia reunited with her family”.The air resounded with vibrant chants of “Allahu Akbar”, and “Free Aafia”. The emotional under currents were electric as the Muslim Ummah joined hands, and the busy Sandton intersection was transformed into a human fortress. When Brother Inayat Wadee read out the memorandum to be handed to the United States Consulate, there wasn't a dry eye as the crowd relived Aafia's pain and suffering over 9 long years -wishing and praying for one thing, and one thing only! “Oh Allah, grant Aafia release so she can re-unite with her family” The crowd then went into a frenzy as 650 balloons symbolising Aafia’s prison number, and nine beautiful white doves to commemorate the years of her incarceration were released into the Sandton skyline. Magically, the overcast sky made way for vibrant sunshine – symbolic of hope and energy: that Aafia will indeed be free, and returned to her loved ones.
We remind ourselves of the following versus from the Noble Quran:
"Then after the distress, He sent down security for you" 3:154“Verily, His Command, when He intends a thing, is only that He says to it, BE and it is” 36:82
SANDTON CHRONICLE, South Africa
Aafia Movement coordinated a series of marches, rallies, demonstrations and other events on March 30, 2012 to mark the 9th anniversary of the kidnap and rendition of Dr. Aafia and her three young children from Pakistan in 2003.
Events were held across 15 countries including Indonesia, Iran, Kashmir, Pakistan, South Africa, UK, USA and others. In Pakistan, rallies were held in 50 cities and towns with thousands registering their support for the reunification of Dr. Aafia with her children and family.
A few of the news items are posted below:
A drive to free jailed Pakistani scientist Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, gained momentum in South Africa today, after hundreds of protesters marched to the US consulate in sandton, north of Johannesburg. Protesters demanded the US Government to release Aafia.
‘‘We wish to thank all those who participated in today’s march in support of our sister Aafia’’ said, Inayet Wadee, Spokesperson for the free Aafia campaign in South Africa.
Wadee described today’s March as a success ‘‘many people attended the march and US officials at the consulate warmly welcomed us before receiving our memorandum’’ the activist said.
Aafia March A Success
Hundreds Join Aafia March
Students Rally for Aafia
March in Jo'burg
AN American soldier on a shooting spree in Afghanistan’s southern province of Kandahar killed 17 innocent Afghan civilians and wounded several others. On September 23, 2010 US Judge Richard Berman sentenced Dr Aafia Siddiqui to 86 years of imprisonment for the ‘intent’ to murder US officers in Afghanistan.
In all likelihood, the American ‘justice’ will prevail with awarding a ‘light’ sentence to the American soldier who killed civilians in Afghanistan. On a similar note, Raymond Davis has still not been tried in any US court for the killing of Pakistani nationals while all efforts are in the offing to push our parliament to pass a resolution for the opening of Nato supply lines. Has the US ever heard the words ‘justice and human rights’?
Pakistanis Protest US Jail for Aafia
JI Rallies for Early release of Dr. Aafia
Pak Opposition seeks AAfia Release as Condition for Normal Ties with US
(Chaudhry) Nisar said that his party would propose two amendments in the draft resolution containing 16 recommendations firmed up by the Parliamentary Committee on the National Security (PCNS) and these two proposals include resolution of core issue of Kashmir and release of Aafia Siddiqui.
Aafia Movement Calls on Youth To Make a Positive Difference
Press TV - Karachi
Press TV - Islamabad
People took to the street of the capital Islamabad to protest the government's failure to secure the release of a Pakistani neuroscientist Dr Aafia Siddique from the US custody.
Nine years on her detention has once again brought the people onto the streets to highlight what they call her mistrial in 2010 by a New York court which sentenced her to 86 years in prison on charges of attempted murder of American soldiers during her detention in an Afghan prison in 2008.
Pakistan's secret intelligence agencies allegedly kidnapped Dr Aafia from her home along with her children from Karachi and they were then handed over to the US in 2003, during the reign of former military ruler, General Parvez Musharraf...
Carswell Prison in the United States continues to impose the harshest rules on Aafia including isolation and restrictions on even a phone call or contact with family or lawyer.
But on the other side of the world, the support for Aafia gained momentum in Pakistan despite violent measures adopted by security forces. Also in February the movement gained an international boost from South Africa where a week long "Free Aafia" campaign generated thousands of supporters. (see story here)
According to details, the rally, bound for US consulate, was intercepted by riot police on Abdullah Haroon Road. Upon resistance police water-cannon, baton, and teargas squads jumped into action to disperse the ralliers.
The police held a number of activists and leaders including Dr Fauzia.
The following is a the text of an open letter sent to Pakistani President Zardari
Published: Asian Human Rights Commission
February 8, 2012
Mr.Asif Ali Zardari President, Islamic republic of Pakistan,
Re: Aafia’s Upcoming Appeal Process, the Role of Your Government, and Broken promises.
This Friday, February 10, 2012, the world will be watching as court-appointed attorneys (who are paid by the US government, and Aafia has repeatedly attempted to fire) – will argue before a US Court of Appeals and purport to represent my sister’s interests 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 three and a half years since agents of the US government shot my sister and the beginning of the 10th year since she was abducted – a Pakistani citizen – 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 United States.
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.
I want to remind you today of the promises that you made, your Prime Minister made, Interior Ministry made and Foreign Ministry made. The promises that said Aafia will be back. Raymond Davis and several other mercenaries have walked free from our land, but innocent citizens are languishing due to the negligence and criminal silence of your administration.
Now, more than ever, the fate of this Daughter of the Nation lies in the hands of the Pakistani government to bring her home.
Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui
Powered by Joomla!.