Friday, February 5, 2010

Has Justice Been Served in Afia Siddiqui's Conviction?

A New York jury has convicted Dr. Aafia Siddiqui of shooting at American soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan during her arrest in 2008. The judge, the jury and the entire proceedings focused narrowly on shooting charges, and there was no discussion of how the accused ended up in Afghanistan. The trial has, in fact, raised more questions than it has answered.

The biggest question that remains unanswered is where was Aafia Siddiqui since her disappearance from Karachi in 2003 till the alleged shooting during her arrest in Afghanistan in 2008?

A Harper magazine story from last November, 2009 issue has a detailed report on Aafia Siddiqui's ordeal from 2003 to the start of her trial in 2009. It has multiple conflicting accounts from many sources including Pakistani officials and Aafia's family.

As the Harper reporter Petra Bartosiewicz explains it, "The charges against her stem solely from the shooting incident itself, not from any alleged act of terrorism. The prosecutors provide no explanation for how a scientist, mother, and wife came to be charged as a dangerous felon. Nor do they account for her missing years, or her two other children, who still are missing. What is known is that the United States wanted her in 2003, and it wanted her again in 2008, and now no one can explain why."

Bartosiewicz goes on to add:

The total number of men and women who have been kidnapped and imprisoned for U.S. intelligence-gathering purposes is difficult to determine. Apart from Iraq and Afghanistan, the main theaters of combat, Pakistan is our primary source of publicly known detainees—researchers at Seton Hall University estimated in 2006 that two thirds of the prisoners at Guantánamo were arrested in Pakistan or by Pakistani authorities—and so it is reasonable to assume that the country is also a major supplier of ghost detainees. Human Rights Watch has tracked enforced disappearances in Pakistan since before 2001. The group’s counterterrorism director, Joanne Mariner, told me that the number of missing persons in the country grew “to a flood” as U.S. counterterrorism operations peaked between 2002 and 2004. In that same three-year period, U.S. aid to Pakistan totaled $4.7 billion, up from $9.1 million in the three years prior to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Correlation does not prove causation, of course, but Pakistan’s former president, Pervez Musharraf, did claim in his 2006 memoir, In the Line of Fire, that his country had delivered 369 Al Qaeda suspects to the United States for “millions of dollars” in bounties (a boast he neatly elides in the Urdu edition). It is reasonable to suspect this figure is on the low side.

Aafia Siddiqui’s elderly maternal uncle, Shams ul Hassan Faruqi, a geologist, says almost everyone the reporter spoke to is lying. Faruqi told her an entirely different story. He said Siddiqui showed up at his house unannounced one evening in January 2008, a time when, according to a Pakistani intelligence officer she was supposedly in the hands of the CIA. Her face had been altered, Faruqi said, as if she had undergone plastic surgery, but he knew her by her voice. She said she had been held by the Pakistanis and the Americans and was now running operations for both of them against Al Qaeda. She had slipped away for a few days, though, because she wanted him to smuggle her across the border into Afghanistan so she could seek sanctuary with the Taliban, members of which Faruqi had known from his years of mineral exploration.

Speculation is rife that Siddiqui could have been working as a double agent for at least part of the time she was gone missing. It's possible that she lost trust of her American handlers, which led to her arrest, shooting, and the recent conviction in New York.

The Harper reporter concluded by quoting Afia's sister Fowzia as saying," I’d love it if a real investigator would come and devote himself to the case. You know, really work on it.”

Even the evidence presented on the narrow shooting charges appeared to leave considerable doubt about the guilt of the accused, already labeled "Lady al Qaeda" by some of the American media. The statements by several witnesses were contradictory, and no credible evidence was presented linking the accused to the gun allegedly used by her in shooting. None of the soldiers or the FBI agents was hurt. Only the accused was shot in the stomach during the incident. But these holes did not prevent the jury from reaching a unanimous verdict of guilt.

Here is how a New York based human rights attorney Joanne Mariner described Siddiqui's trial:

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.

What this case shows is that Muslims are currently a despised minority in the West these days. What we are seeing is reminiscent of the McCarthy era Red Scare or the WW II era anti-Japanese sentiments against Muslims in America. Even the US judiciary appears to have been swayed by the current environment, just as it was when the US Supreme Court approved of the internment camps to isolate and hold Japanese Americans during the second world war.

Given the environment of deep suspicion and fear of Muslims, all norms of fairness and rule of law are being ignored in the US when it comes to justice for any one with a Muslim name who gets accused of anything smacking of violence or terrorism.

Here's a video clip of Dr. Amjad Khan, ex-husband of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, speaking with GeoTV news:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Is Afia a Dangerous Terrorist or Innocent Victim?

Musharraf's Economic Legacy

Harper's Story on Aafia

South Asia Review


Vishal said...

Mr Riaz, it's surprising how extreme are your views while presenting the deficiencies of India starting from literacy to food and health-care and even your so called accounts of Indian IT being run by code-coolies, when as a Pakistani-American those could have been a little less of your concerns.

I wish you had reserved a fraction of that criticism for the conditions surrounding your own country. Not that this blog's readers would derive any pleasure out of it, but just as a duty of a good blogger, who can make an impact by his views.

Here, you have a woman who is tortured for years and betrayed by his own countrymen.

May I ask, that why you do not care to ask the questions as to :

1) Why was she handed to US at first place?

2) Why did Pakistan choose to take money, in exchange of sending its own citizens to US cells? (It still does, to kill its own people)

3) While Pakistan plays a servile role under US, what people like you siting in US can do to make a change. You point to the Harper magazine article, but not a single article bringing out the role of Pakistan's own agencies in all this.

Alas, it seems you are too busy, counting the hungry and uneducated people in India, but care to look the other way when it comes to something more drastic at home. That leaves me both puzzled and bemused.

Anonymous said...

Here we go again - conspiracy theory number n+1.

She'd been trolling Islamist literature while she was at Brandeis. It's easy to believe the assertion of her going hardcore Al-Q (through marriage and other means) between 2003 and 2008. Pointing to he MIT and Brandeis background shouldn't obscure the fact that she went cuckoo after 9/11.

Why every little becomes a national pride issue for Pakistanis is baffling. If it's not the KL-bill then it's the IPL "snub"; or Dr Aafia. Stephen Colbert referred to Muslims as the "thinnest-skinned billion people on the planet". Show us it's not so.

Riaz Haq said...

Vishal: "I wish you had reserved a fraction of that criticism for the conditions surrounding your own country."

Your reading of my blog and your responses are highly selective. You get very upset at any criticism of India, but you take for granted even the harshest of my criticism of Pakistan, of which there is plenty on my blog.

For example, I have repeatedly criticized Pakistan's narrow ruling elite, called them incompetent and corrupt, and taken them to task for the plight of the poor, the women and the children of Pakistan. None of this registers with you. But any criticism of India deeply angers you, as obvious from this and many other comments you have been making on this blog.

Mayraj said...

Sounds reminiscent of what happened with that Jordanian Doctor "double agent"....who killed CIA officers in a suicide bomb...Riaz you should know when details are left out it doesn't serve purposes of the accusers who have some role in it..consider what Saddam and Chemical Ali were accused of and who supplied them with these chemicals....

Anonymous said...


Whatever short coming which has been highlighted in the articles are facts. However it is an insufficient argument as it is the norm of the intelligence to eleminate even the suspect agent of them doing double act. Actually if that person would a coutries citizen he can be tried for treason. Further you must know the famous wording "all are equal but some are more equal" is the practice of west and the GCC countries.

Anonymous said...

Further please read the bhutto saga as explained in It will bring out the dynamic of money given by usa in the politics and military of pakistan.

Anonymous said...


It will be waste of time as none of the intelligence agency whether that of pakistan or usa will tell the truth.

Probably she is the lesson for people who tried to have double role with two or three intelligence agencies.

Riaz Haq said...

Here is a NY Times Op Ed by Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman on questions about rule of law in US foreclosures crisis:

The accounting scandals at Enron and WorldCom dispelled the myth of effective corporate governance. These days, the idea that our banks were well capitalized and supervised sounds like a sick joke. And now the mortgage mess is making nonsense of claims that we have effective contract enforcement — in fact, the question is whether our economy is governed by any kind of rule of law.

The story so far: An epic housing bust and sustained high unemployment have led to an epidemic of default, with millions of homeowners falling behind on mortgage payments. So servicers — the companies that collect payments on behalf of mortgage owners — have been foreclosing on many mortgages, seizing many homes.

But do they actually have the right to seize these homes? Horror stories have been proliferating, like the case of the Florida man whose home was taken even though he had no mortgage. More significantly, certain players have been ignoring the law. Courts have been approving foreclosures without requiring that mortgage servicers produce appropriate documentation; instead, they have relied on affidavits asserting that the papers are in order. And these affidavits were often produced by “robo-signers,” or low-level employees who had no idea whether their assertions were true.

Now an awful truth is becoming apparent: In many cases, the documentation doesn’t exist. In the frenzy of the bubble, much home lending was undertaken by fly-by-night companies trying to generate as much volume as possible. These loans were sold off to mortgage “trusts,” which, in turn, sliced and diced them into mortgage-backed securities. The trusts were legally required to obtain and hold the mortgage notes that specified the borrowers’ obligations. But it’s now apparent that such niceties were frequently neglected. And this means that many of the foreclosures now taking place are, in fact, illegal.

This is very, very bad. For one thing, it’s a near certainty that significant numbers of borrowers are being defrauded — charged fees they don’t actually owe, declared in default when, by the terms of their loan agreements, they aren’t.

Beyond that, if trusts can’t produce proof that they actually own the mortgages against which they have been selling claims, the sponsors of these trusts will face lawsuits from investors who bought these claims — claims that are now, in many cases, worth only a small fraction of their face value.

And who are these sponsors? Major financial institutions — the same institutions supposedly rescued by government programs last year. So the mortgage mess threatens to produce another financial crisis.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Fox News report on possible release of Aafia Siddiqui in exchange for release of Dr. Afridi who helped the CIA in tracking Bin Laden:

Pakistan is preparing a proposal to swap the doctor who helped the CIA pinpoint Usama bin Laden for a notorious female neuroscientist and suspected Al Qaeda operative being held at a federal prison in Texas, has learned.
The exchange would involve Dr. Shakil Afridi, the pro-America doctor whose vaccination ruse helped establish the terror kingpin’s presence in an Abbottabad compound prior to the Navy SEAL raid that killed him, and Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. Siddiqui is a U.S.-trained neurosurgeon who left Massachusetts after 9/11 and resurfaced in Afghanistan where she was arrested for trying to kill U.S. soldiers.
Khalid Sheikh Muhammed told U.S. authorities Siddiqui was an Al Qaeda courier and operative. A State Department spokesman acknowledged that Pakistan has been eager to get Siddiqui extradited, but said no deal is in the works.
“The government of Pakistan requested her transfer to Pakistan in 2010,” spokesman Patrick Ventrell said. “However we are not aware of a recent request from Pakistan to discuss her case, nor the case of Afridi.”
Siddiqui is currently serving a sentence of 86 years at a maximum security prison in Fort Worth, Texas. She has denied the charges and role with Al Qaeda.
A Pakistani Interior Ministry official who requested anonymity told the prisoner exchange is still being drafted. The official said it would take at least a month before the newly formed task force constituted by Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan can finalize an agreement to present to the Obama administration and discuss the terms of a deal.
Though a formal extradition agreement between Pakistan and U.S. does not exist, former Pakistani President Pervaiz Musharraf has been accused of secretly handing over several alleged terrorists during his nine-year term.
A Pakistani TV network claims to possess confidential documents in which the U.S. demands that Pakistan admit Siddiqui is a terrorist and that the sentence she was given in the U.S. was justified. Such declarations, if actually requested, would be key to any potential swap to assure she serve the remainder of her sentence in Pakistan.
However, reports in Pakistan say the government there is reluctant to release Afridi, especially without the U.S. acknowledging what Pakistani officials say is his illegal conduct. He was sentenced by a tribal court to 33 years in jail without the possibility of bail on widely disputed charges of colluding with terrorists...

Read more:

Riaz Haq said...

Here's leaked emails of intelligence analysts at Stratfor about "journalist" Saleem Shahzad:

On Monday February 27th, 2012, WikiLeaks began publishing The Global Intelligence Files, over five million e-mails from the Texas headquartered "global intelligence" company Stratfor. The e-mails date between July 2004 and late December 2011. They reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal's Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defence Intelligence Agency. The emails show Stratfor's web of informers, pay-off structure, payment laundering techniques and psychological methods.

Re: Pakistan Journalist Vanishes: Is the ISI Involved?
Released on 2012-03-08 09:00 GMT

Email-ID 1644311
Date 2011-06-01 15:50:16
The most interesting aspect is the killing of a journalist. Fine line
between an investigative journalist and spy. When you rattle around
topics nobody wants aired, you pay the price. Truth tellers always get
shot. Its much easier to lie or make up stories.

On 6/1/2011 8:46 AM, Sean Noonan wrote:

i don't think we're going anywhere with this SSS thing, though it is
On 6/1/11 8:41 AM, Fred Burton wrote:

The poor bastard went down the rabbit hole and was neutralized.

ISI is fully infiltrated by sympathizers and operatives. So, he was
killed by ISI. Will we find a smoking gun? No. Will anybody care
about this dude? Not really. The Agency lost an asset. Life goes
on. There is a reason the CIA set up unilateral operations in

Suggest everyone read David Ignatius new book on CIA NOC and front
company operations in Pakistan. Once again, he has gotten dead

On 6/1/2011 8:06 AM, Sean Noonan wrote:

the question, though, is still who did it.

It means very different things if it is the ISI, the traditional
military, or the jihadists. Then a question of who within those
groups can also mean different things. Not saying we can answer that
very easily, but who specifically killed who (with the support of
who) would explain if there is an issue or not. Operating between
the intelligence services and jihadists is a very, very dangerous
place- so it's not all that surprising that these deaths occur. And
as tensions go up, so will those deaths. But we would have to know
the same people were involved in the deaths to really know what 'the
issue' actually is.
On 6/1/11 7:59 AM, Kamran Bokhari wrote:

The issue is not the man himself (though I am personally spooked
out because I knew him and we met not too long ago and he wrote on
my fb wall a day before he went missing). Instead the issue is the
growing number of deaths of people who have been supportive of
jihadists. Recall KK and Col Imam and now Triple-S. The other
thing is that each of these 3 people were with the ISI at one
point. A former army chief confirmed to me that SSS was at one
point on the payroll. Each of these guys had a falling out with
the official ISI but maintained links deep within the service.
These guys have also had ties to jihadists of one type while
pissing off other more radical types.--....

Riaz Haq said...

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil) reportedly called for the release of a female Pakistani scientist with ties to al-Qaeda in exchange for James Foley.
According to the New York Times, Isil sent through a "laundry list" of demands to the United States which included the release of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, an MIT-trained neuroscientist currently incarcerated in a prison in Texas.

In the United States Dr Siddiqui is considered an al-Qaida courier and fundraiser involved in bomb making, but in Pakistan and Afghanistan, she is seen as an Islamic ‘damsel in distress’ who has been persecuted for her faith.

Their demand taps into feelings of ‘Muslim righteousness’ felt widely throughout the two countries, said Michael Semple, a leading expert on the Taliban and former European Union representative in Kabul.
Sympathy for Dr Siddiqui over her arrest, detention and extradition to the United States is so widespread in Pakistan that its government offered to swap her for a CIA contractor who shot dead two alleged robbers in a Lahore street in 2011.
Dr Siddiqui, a US-trained neuroscientist, was arrested in Ghazni, Afghanistan in 2008 and found to have documents on chemical weapons, dirty bombs and viruses indicating she was planning attacks against American enemies.
When she was interviewed by American soldiers and FBI officers the following day she allegedly grabbed a rifle left on a table and shot at her interrogators. She was treated for gunshot wounds suffered in the struggle and later sent to the United States where she was convicted of attempted murder and jailed for 86 years.
A call for her release would indicate Isil has a contingent of Taliban veterans from Afghanistan and Pakistan, a leading terrorism expert told the Telegraph on Thursday.
Isil’s demands for her release would be tactical and strategic, Mr Semple said. “One explanation is that people from the Afghan-Pakistan theatre have transferred to Iraq and Syria and her cause is part of their baggage.
“The strategic explanation is that it’s a good cause, she is a damsel in distress. Isil is trying to mobilise people in righteous condemnation of [what they see as] oppression of the Muslim nation at the hands of the West,” he explained.

Dr Ghairat Baheer, the son-in-law of Afghan insurgency leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, said he believed he had been held by the Americans at Bagram jail at the same time as Dr Siddiqui and that she was “mentally disturbed”.
“Muslims all over the world, but especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan, have great sympathy for her, regardless of her case, because she is a lady and she was mentally disturbed. The sympathy for her is natural and should be appreciated,” he said.
Palwasha Khan, a former member of the Pakistan National Assembly’s foreign affairs committee, said the country’s religious right had exploited her treatment as a woman.
“The facts behind her incarceration remain murky and undisclosed to date. The anti-West sentiment in Pakistan also helped in evoking great sympathy towards her and respective governments failed to bring the real facts to light”, she said.