Thursday, August 7, 2008

Is Aafia Siddiqui an Innocent Victim, or Dangerous Terrorist?


Who is Aafia Siddiqui? An innocent mother of three children or a cold-blooded al Qaida operative? Is she a victim or a perpetrator of violence? Is she guilty by association? The answers to these questions depend on who you ask and what you believe.

Common Pakistani Narrative:
According to most accounts heard in Pakistan, Aafia is an innocent victim of the US war on terror, swept up by the intelligence agencies of Pakistan and held in secret detention and tortured by the CIA since 2003. These accounts seem credible based on multiple sources and similar cases of people such as Moazzam Begg, a British citizen held and tortured for years in Afghanistan and Guantanamo. Yvonne Ridley, a British journalist and recent convert to Islam, claimed she was told that a female prisoner had been held at Bagram Air Base in Kabul for years and, after sexual abuse and confinement, deteriorated physically and mentally. Ridley’s speculation that it could be Siddiqui stirred up the issue in the Pakistani media. She, and her three children, had been considered missing persons, like hundreds of other Pakistanis since 2001, by human rights advocates, until her appearance in a NY court yesterday on charges of terrorism and assault on US personnel. The whereabouts of her three children are unknown.

US and Pakistani Officials Narrative:

The US and Pakistani officials believe Aafia Siddiqui, 36 years old mother of three, has close connections with Al-Qaeda terrorists. According to the Wall Street Journal, a Pakistani security official said she is the wife of Ammar al-Baluchi. He is a nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who U.S. officials say was the matermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington. Ammar Baluchi is a cousin of Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and Mr. Baluchi helped facilitate travel and financing of senior al Qaeda leaders, the official said.

Ammar Baluchi and Aafia Siddiqui married after she obtained a divorce from her first husband, Amjad Khan, the father of her three children, in 2003, according to the official. Mr. Baluchi was arrested soon after with a high-ranking al Qaeda lieutenant, Walid Bin Attash, who is believed to have organized the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen.

Aafia Siddiqui's Defense
Elaine Whitfield Sharp, a lawyer for Ms. Siddiqui's family, said there was "no evidence" of Ms. Siddiqui remarrying and that she thought it was extremely unlikely. Ms. Sharp said she was still trying to establish key details, but that the allegations in the complaint "don't pass the sniff test."


Future Implications
As you can see, the two narratives are completely at odds. Regardless of guilt or innocence of Aafia Siddiqui on terrorism charges, it is now commonly believed in Pakistan that she has been subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment and held without due process for a long time. Unfortunately, incidents such as these fuel resentment against the US and Pakistani military and strengthen the extreme elements in Pakistan to go out and commit more acts of terror claiming more innocent lives of mostly Muslims. The high-profile Aafia Siddiqui case is comparable to Guantanamo and Abu-Ghraib in its potential impact on Pakistanis support for the war on terror. She has become the symbol of the extraordinary excesses of this war. She represents the recognizable face of the hundreds of missing Pakistanis since 911. Unless the US and Pakistani authorities come clean on this case, it will represent yet another blow to the US and moderate Muslims in the battle for the hearts and minds of the average Muslims, Afghani and Pakistani.

Here's a videoclip of TV coverage of Aafia Siddiqui's case:



Here's another video of Aafia Siddiqui and her son in Ghazni:

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Its very odd to pick up a women as an al-queda operative and intel agencies keen interest in her.Terrorism needs different rules of engagement.Acts of terror cannot be tackled by criminal laws.I mean terrorists are pickup on tip-off by informants,interrogation or wireless intercepts.These kinda evidence is hardly judicial evidence.At the end of the day,our enforcement agencies needs to be resourceful, trained and be made professional so that, at the end of day, they could tackle situation in a cool headed manner. When pressure from higher-ups mount for information and convictions, then they get pressured to get rabbit out of the hat and do torture and coerce people into false confession. Terrorists cannot demand fair treatment because they don't follow rules of combat and thus they get treatment given to captured snipers and assassins.

Anonymous said...

Lets assume that she was the mastermind behind all terrorism, does that justify the brutal torture and rape and 5 years of confinement?

Riaz Haq said...

As I mention in my piece, this is an atrocity in the same way as other atrocities committed by the US in Afghanistan, Abu-Ghraib and Guantanamo. And it is likely to trigger much larger, more massive counter atrocities by "Jihadi" suicide bombers who have claimed countless, nameless and faceless Muslim victims in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. The victims of both sides are the same: Ordinary Muslims.
Riaz

Anonymous said...

^^anon..don't jump the gun! We don't know anything yet! All assumptions came from narration of a jail inmate who havnt confirmed its Mrs.DrDeath.Its common for the accused defending lawyer to raise outrageous accusations to get Amnesty etc's attention and to stir up hornet's nest in Islamic world.This is classic pressure tactic. About retribution coming out of this..I mean plz..the al-zarqawi types don't need anymore motivation.They will find stuff from internet to motivate themselves. Have anybody seen chechan or zarqawi videos?(didnt deliberately watch it..the videos got mixed up with porn collection)..it made my stomach upset all day long..This women shot at FBI agents and soldiers(which is not outrageous coz the al-queda gives through hand-to-hand combat training etc)..what do u think they would do to her..give her a hard time..Americans are not angels..I am definitely on US side..even though its very sad to hear them bombing afghan civilians..

Anonymous said...

"don't jump the gun"?

the woman has been missing for 5 years.

What do you think the US military has been doing to her all that time?

Just think Abu Ghraib and we get a clear picture of how US miliary personell treat prisoners. If they do disgusting things to men, what the hell would they do with women? Treat them with courtesy and respect? If you beleive that, you'd beleive anything.

Riaz Haq said...

While the details of what happened with Aafia are not established yet, there have been many cases in the last several years where innocent victims, mainly Muslims, have been jailed, humiliated, and tortured by American CIA in secret detentions or by the US military at makeshift prisons. Just think of the documented cases of many innocents at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib who later had to be released. Hence the widespread suspicion and belief that the same fate befell Aafia.

Riaz Haq said...

Regardless of your opinion about Aafia and the circumstances of her disapperance, it is very tragic situation as it affects three young lives of her children, in addition to her own. As she has become a cause celebre among Islamic

fundamentalist radicals and human rights advocates, the debate about moderate vs. radicals within Islam has intensified. To give you flavor of this debate, let me share with you a comment I received in the form of a link and my response:

The sender wrote:
Here is a piece I had written on it about six years ago:
http://www.albalagh.net/current_affairs/tic.shtml

My response:

The author/sender's basic premise is that any one who disagrees with his strict definition of a Muslim is an alcohol-drinking, bacon-eating kafir, and an American stooge. Coming from the self-described "saleheen" (the virtuous), such thinking is not at all surprising. It only perpetuates the rhetoric of Bush and bin Laden, who both insist that "You are either with us, or with the forces of evil". In the world according to bin Laden and Bush, there is no room for any one to disagree with them and not be considered evil. This is what the world is dealing with, the absence of any middle ground or moderation between these two warriors, both of which claim the high moral ground, regardless of the murder and mayhem they inflict on the innocent people (mostly Muslim) and call it collateral damage.

Tazeen said...

I just fail to understand; why such brouhaha now?
She was arrested five years ago, her family did nothing and all of a sudden, she is a media darling? If she was missing, how come her case was not among the other missing person's case. legitimate cases like that of Mr Janjua, whose wife has been campaigning for his freedom for 4 longs years never get as much media and political attention as these scam cases do.

Anonymous said...

Riaz,

Here is the latest twist and "news' on Aafia Siddiqui"

http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/227709,us-admits-holding-teenage-son-of-pakistani-scientist.html

News about her son:

"The disclosure that Ahmed is in US custody is a great development," Fauzia said. "I have a feeling that Dr Afia may be repatriated to Pakistan very soon, possibly before September 3 or soon afterwards.

"This might be a wishful thinking but at least this hope is what is keeping our whole family on our feet," she added."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece by a former NY Times correspondent Chris Hedges published by TruthDig.com on Dec 28, 2009:

Syed Fahad Hashmi can tell you about the dark heart of America. He knows that our First Amendment rights have become a joke, that habeas corpus no longer exists and that we torture, not only in black sites such as those at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan or at Guantánamo Bay, but also at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Lower Manhattan. Hashmi is a U.S. citizen of Muslim descent imprisoned on two counts of providing and conspiring to provide material support and two counts of making and conspiring to make a contribution of goods or services to al-Qaida. As his case prepares for trial, his plight illustrates that the gravest threat we face is not from Islamic extremists, but the codification of draconian procedures that deny Americans basic civil liberties and due process. Hashmi would be a better person to tell you this, but he is not allowed to speak.

This corruption of our legal system, if history is any guide, will not be reserved by the state for suspected terrorists, or even Muslim Americans. In the coming turmoil and economic collapse, it will be used to silence all who are branded as disruptive or subversive. Hashmi endures what many others, who are not Muslim, will endure later. Radical activists in the environmental, globalization, anti-nuclear, sustainable agriculture and anarchist movements—who are already being placed by the state in special detention facilities with Muslims charged with terrorism—have discovered that his fate is their fate. Courageous groups have organized protests, including vigils outside the Manhattan detention facility. They can be found at www.educatorsforcivilliberties.org or www.freefahad.com. On Martin Luther King Day, this Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. EST, protesters will hold a large vigil in front of the MCC on 150 Park Row in Lower Manhattan to call for a return of our constitutional rights. Join them if you can.

The case against Hashmi, like most of the terrorist cases launched by the Bush administration, is appallingly weak and built on flimsy circumstantial evidence. This may be the reason the state has set up parallel legal and penal codes to railroad those it charges with links to terrorism. If it were a matter of evidence, activists like Hashmi, who is accused of facilitating the delivery of socks to al-Qaida, would probably never be brought to trial.

Hashmi, who if convicted could face up to 70 years in prison, has been held in solitary confinement for more than 2½ years. Special administrative measures, known as SAMs, have been imposed by the attorney general to prevent or severely restrict communication with other prisoners, attorneys, family, the media and people outside the jail. He also is denied access to the news and other reading material. Hashmi is not allowed to attend group prayer. He is subject to 24-hour electronic monitoring and 23-hour lockdown. He must shower and go to the bathroom on camera. He can write one letter a week to a single member of his family, but he cannot use more than three pieces of paper. He has no access to fresh air and must take his one hour of daily recreation in a cage. His “proclivity for violence” is cited as the reason for these measures although he has never been charged or convicted with committing an act of violence.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a story from Aafia Siddiqui's ex-husband published in "The News" last year:

Providing documentary proof of the legal agreement between him and Dr Aafia following their divorce, Dr Amjad said that he had been financially supporting his three children Ahmed, Marium and Suleiman until the family stopped accepting the cheques he had been mailing. “After the agreement they accepted my cheques till March 2003. After that my cheques were being returned from Aafia’s home and that got me worried. Soon after I learnt that in April 2003, Aafia and our children had been ‘picked up’ by agencies.” Meanwhile, he received disturbing reports from the family that Aafia chose to leave Karachi with her children as she feared an attack from him.

Curious to locate the whereabouts of his children, Dr Amjad sought the help of the police and government officials to find them. “I was aware of Aafia’s violent personality and extremist views and suspected her involvement in Jihadi activities. My fear later proved to be true when during Uzair Paracha’s trial in the US in 2004, the real purpose of Aafia’s trip to the US (between December 23, 2002 and January 3, 2003) was revealed.”

Elaborating, Dr Amjad disclosed that he later learnt from media reports that Aafia’s family claimed she made this trip to the US for job interviews in December at a time when universities were closed for winter holidays. “I also found it very odd that on the one hand Aafia insisted on leaving the US after September 11, 2001, claiming the country was unsafe for us and our children because the US government was abducting Muslim children, and on the other hand took the risk of travelling to that country again without fearing that she may be captured and may never see our children again.”

While Dr Aafia was in the US, the authorities had been closely watching her, added Amjad. They soon issued the first global “wanted for questioning” alert for the couple in March 2003. “At that time, the agencies did not know we were divorced and I was also unaware of Aafia’s involvement with two other terror suspects, Majid Khan and Ammar Al-Baluchi. They wanted me to persuade Aafia to appear for the interview with them and clear the charges leveled against her just as I had done. That is when she went underground and it later became apparent why she chose to ‘disappear’,” disclosed Dr Amjad.

Sharing details of his unsuccessful marriage with Dr Aafia, Dr Amjad told The News that since their marriage was arranged, he was unaware of Aafia’s violent behaviour. “She got hysterical fits when she became angry and would physically attack me, but I put up with it for the sake of our children.”

Although Amjad and Aafia both were inclined towards religion, he found her opinion towards Jihad to be of an extreme nature that sometimes made him uncomfortable. He became particularly suspicious of his wife’s intentions when soon after the 9/11 attacks, she compelled Amjad to leave Boston (where Amjad was completing his residency) and move to Afghanistan where she claimed “he would be more useful”.

Riaz Haq said...

Clearly, Muslims are a despised minority in the West these days. What we are seeing is similar to the McCarthy era Red Scare or the WW II ea anti-Japanese situation for Muslims in America.

Given the environment of deep suspicion and fear of Muslims, most 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 terrorism charges. That's probably what happened in Afia's conviction.

Unfortunately for poor Afia, even her own ex believes she is guilty as sin.

Here's an excerpt from a story from Aafia Siddiqui's ex-husband published in "The News" last year:

Providing documentary proof of the legal agreement between him and Dr Aafia following their divorce, Dr Amjad said that he had been financially supporting his three children Ahmed, Marium and Suleiman until the family stopped accepting the cheques he had been mailing. “After the agreement they accepted my cheques till March 2003. After that my cheques were being returned from Aafia’s home and that got me worried. Soon after I learnt that in April 2003, Aafia and our children had been ‘picked up’ by agencies.” Meanwhile, he received disturbing reports from the family that Aafia chose to leave Karachi with her children as she feared an attack from him.

Curious to locate the whereabouts of his children, Dr Amjad sought the help of the police and government officials to find them. “I was aware of Aafia’s violent personality and extremist views and suspected her involvement in Jihadi activities. My fear later proved to be true when during Uzair Paracha’s trial in the US in 2004, the real purpose of Aafia’s trip to the US (between December 23, 2002 and January 3, 2003) was revealed.”

Elaborating, Dr Amjad disclosed that he later learnt from media reports that Aafia’s family claimed she made this trip to the US for job interviews in December at a time when universities were closed for winter holidays. “I also found it very odd that on the one hand Aafia insisted on leaving the US after September 11, 2001, claiming the country was unsafe for us and our children because the US government was abducting Muslim children, and on the other hand took the risk of travelling to that country again without fearing that she may be captured and may never see our children again.”

While Dr Aafia was in the US, the authorities had been closely watching her, added Amjad. They soon issued the first global “wanted for questioning” alert for the couple in March 2003. “At that time, the agencies did not know we were divorced and I was also unaware of Aafia’s involvement with two other terror suspects, Majid Khan and Ammar Al-Baluchi. They wanted me to persuade Aafia to appear for the interview with them and clear the charges leveled against her just as I had done. That is when she went underground and it later became apparent why she chose to ‘disappear’,” disclosed Dr Amjad.

Sharing details of his unsuccessful marriage with Dr Aafia, Dr Amjad told The News that since their marriage was arranged, he was unaware of Aafia’s violent behaviour. “She got hysterical fits when she became angry and would physically attack me, but I put up with it for the sake of our children.”

Although Amjad and Aafia both were inclined towards religion, he found her opinion towards Jihad to be of an extreme nature that sometimes made him uncomfortable. He became particularly suspicious of his wife’s intentions when soon after the 9/11 attacks, she compelled Amjad to leave Boston (where Amjad was completing his residency) and move to Afghanistan where she claimed “he would be more useful”.

Riaz Haq said...

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.

The reporter Petra Bartosiewicz explains that "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."

She 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 Guant├ínamo 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 the 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.

The Harper reporter concludes 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.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a BBC report about Aafia's whereabouts from 2003-2008:

The only real clue to all these may lie in what her uncle, Shamsul Hasan Farooqi has said. His account first appeared in The Guardian newspaper but he has now told the BBC about her state of mind when he saw her last in 2008.

"Five years after she went missing, my niece reappeared on my doorstep on 22 January 2008," he said.

"Someone had rung my door bell and then my servant came and told me a woman wanted to see me.

"When I went to meet her, I saw Aafia standing outside. She was wearing a burka and was clearly very scared.

"She said she wanted me to put her in touch with the Afghan Taliban."

Mr Farooqi explained that he used to carry out geological work in Afghanistan and had established contact with the Taliban in 1999.

"But I told her that I was no longer in touch with them," he said.

Mr Farooqi said that his niece also spoke about what happened after she went missing - he was told that she had been "held in various places at various times".

"She had not seen her children for years - sometimes her captors said they were dead and sometimes that they had been sent abroad," he said.

"She was quite clear that she was being held by Pakistani agencies. She spoke well of the Americans, but was clearly afraid of the Pakistanis.

"Before she came to see me, she said that she was being held in Lahore by a security agency."

Mr Farooqi says that he immediately called his sister - Siddiqui's mother - who flew in from Karachi the next day to meet her daughter.

He says Siddiqui stayed with them for two days.

Double agent?

"Throughout this time I had a strong feeling that she was being monitored in some way - through a device on her person or some other method," he said.


http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8499322.stm

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...
does that justify the brutal torture and rape and 5 years of confinement?

August 7, 2008 10:06 AM"

How do you know she was raped? Any evidence? Medical statemnts/evalutaions?

Is the incident of Abu Ghraib an indicator of general policy of US intelligence? Do you know who released the pictures of the abuse of Abu Ghraib? An Amerian soldier, male, who also worked for the photo lab.

It is obviously more important for you to cry rape etc., than show regard to the facts.

Not once during her trial did she mention being raped or sexually abused. She did take the stand and spoke calmly, forward and rationally.

No human rights organization (campagining for her) has claimed rape.

The only thing we do know is there are conflicting accounts of what happened in 2008 and the period where she was missing 2003-2008.

This does not legitimize conspiracy theories and malicious accusations.

Or else you should extend such sweeping generalizations and accusations to say the Pakistani government and police's handling of rape cases. We all witnessed Dr. Shazia (forced to leave her country), Sonia Naz (missing since 2007 after taking her rapists to court, Mukhtar Mai (accused of slandering her countrys reputation for speaking out against her own gangrape). So according to your logic this is the way of ALL Pakistanis in Pakistan regardign handling og rape cases.

How about human rights activists in Pakistan? They are stripped naked and abused and threatened. So this is how Pakistans government handles protests and activists?

How about the honour killings widely recognized throughout Pakistan? Is that indicative of how Pakistanis treat and view women?

There is little doubt that something murky is going on. A woman disappears. For 5 years. And the rape accusation is coming from one person, her sister/family who too has displayed erratic conspiratory behaviour. Funny that, seeing as she/the family haven't spoken to Aafia, and the Pakistani press who is dramatizing events, were not allowed to cover the trial of 2010 yet seem to have details of the Aafia's trial and whereabout which the international press has not even mentioned.

Also noteworthy is her husbands accounts of her whereabouts, which he says he was told by her family back in 2003 when he questioned why he could not visit their children.

What happened we don't know. But human rights are being breached for each day she is in captivity.

I also find it strange that both kids who have surfaced have not talked to press or told publically what happened, despite knowing as they too were missing for 5 years.

Would it not be in Aafia's interest as well as her familys to reveal the truth? What are they afriad of? What can possibly go wrong at this stage when their sister has suffered and is still in captivity?

Still I think we need to go by facts as we have them. Conspiracy theories rarely bring good or credibility.

I for one was very shocked when she was found guilty. The only way to go now is appeal. Little to be expected from Pakistani authorities/intelligence, who as you conveniently left out or didnt know, played a key role in her handing over to the US.

Irrespective of what she did or did not do, she deserves her basic human rights.

Riaz Haq said...

Media reports indicate that the New York judge decided to throw the book at Aafia Siddiqui by giving her maximum sentence adding up to 86 years in jail...longer than her life expectancy. Here' a BBC report on the questions being raised about the sentence:

Aafia Siddiqui was sentenced to 86 years for trying to kill US government agents in Afghanistan in 2009.

Several thousand people gathered in protest in Peshawar and there were smaller demonstrations in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi.

Pakistan's prime minister called the sentence unfortunate and said he would take the matter up with US officials.................................

-----

Prosecutors in New York called Siddiqui an al-Qaeda sympathiser and sought life imprisonment.

She was being interrogated by US officials in Afghanistan when she grabbed a rifle and opened fire, shouting "Death to Americans", the court heard.

A unanimous jury found her guilty in February of attempting to murder US and Afghan military personnel.

Prosecutors used notes she was carrying at the time of her arrest - which included references to constructing dirty bombs and a list of New York City landmarks - as evidence that she was a potentially dangerous terrorist. She was also carrying sodium cyanide, a toxic substance, the court was told.

Siddiqui's lawyers argued she was mentally ill. They argued there were no fingerprints or gunpowder traces to show their client even picked up the rifle, and plan to appeal.

The BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Karachi says many questions about Aafia Siddiqui remain unanswered - most notably five years between 2003 and 2008 when she disappeared with her three children. One child has never been traced.

Many Pakistanis believe she was kidnapped by the US authorities with the help of Pakistan's security agencies, allegations both countries deny.

Our correspondent says that although Pakistan has been providing consular and legal support for Siddiqui, many Pakistanis believe their government's professions of support for her are aimed at assuaging an increasingly angry public.

Riaz Haq said...

Clearly, Muslims are a despised minority in the West these days. What we are seeing is similar to the McCarthy era Red Scare or the WW II era anti-Japanese situation for Muslims in America.

Given the environment of deep suspicion and fear of Muslims, most 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 terrorism charges. That's probably what happened in Afia's conviction a New York jury.

What is particularly disturbing is the way the NY judge severely limited the scope of Afia's trial by forbidding any discussion or testimony of how she ended up in Afghanistan, and later in New York for her trial.

Who brought her there? Was she kidnapped by CIA and kept in CIA secret detention prior to being transferred to NY on charges that appear preposterous, given her physical size and capacity to attack US military personnel?

This trial itself has raised tons of questions and answered few. No wonder it has become cause celebre for the radicals, and raises fears of adding fuel to the fire already raging in Pakistan.

It is in the best interest of the United States and Pakistan that justice is done, and seen to be done without any shadow of a doubt. Appearances are just as important as reality of justice.

Riaz Haq said...

The problem with the way this trial was conducted was that all evidence and testimony related to the events leading up to the alleged assault by Aafia Siddiqui were completely excluded by the judge. The trial only dealt with just the narrow assault charges, not the circumstances and the context that led up to the alleged incident in which Aafia Siddiqui attempted to pick up a gun to shoot at US soldiers.

If the trial judge had permitted a broader scope of inquiry in the courtroom in front of the jury, the truth about the alleged role of Mush, CIA, ISI and others would have come out and justice would have been better served not only in Aafia's case, but also in other similar cases of disappearances and missing persons in Pakistan who ended up in CIA secret detentions and extraordinary renditions.

I don't know if Afia Siddiqui is innocent or guilty, but I do know that her trial and conviction in New York have raised far more questions than answers. In my view, justice has not been done, nor seen to be done in Dr. Aafia Siddiqui's case.

Trials like Aafia's have echoes of the Rosenbergs trial and conviction during the McCarthy era.

The New York Times, in an editorial on the 50th anniversary of the execution (June 19, 2003) wrote, "The Rosenbergs case still haunts American history, reminding us of the injustice that can be done when a nation gets caught up in hysteria."

I wouldn't be surprised if NY Times would write a similar editorial at some future date about Aafia Siddiqui's trial.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an OpEd by a Pakistani attorney Rana Sajjad published by the Tribune Express:

The only issue on which the judge disagreed with the jury was whether the crimes for which Dr Aafia had been convicted were premeditated. The jurors were not convinced that they were, while the judge was absolutely certain that they were in fact premeditated.

In terms of sentencing, the most noteworthy aspect was the fact that the judge applied all the enhancements that he possibly could. As a general rule, the term of the sentence should be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence. In Dr Aafia’s case, the judge augmented her sentence on the basis of various grounds. Firstly, he was of the view that the offences were hate crimes, the convict being motivated by her hatred for America. Another consideration in enhancing the sentence was the charge that she had attacked US government officials. Interestingly, Dr Aafia’s “lying” on the witness stand was also one of the grounds for enhancement since the judge held that she had obstructed the course of justice by lying. Does this mean that a statement made by a defendant could be considered a lie just because it is not believed to be true by the judge? Such a rule could deter a lot of defendants from making any statements in their defence out of fear of causing obstruction of justice.

As much as these enhancements seem extraordinary, they pale in comparison to the aptly described ‘ceiling shattering’ terrorism enhancement. By characterising the offences as terrorism, the judge elevated Dr Aafia’s criminal history and offence-level category to a much higher level. Unfortunately, it appears that while applying this enhancement, due process of law was also not followed. This is because earlier the judge had refused to admit the evidence presented by the prosecution to prove Dr Aafia’s intent to carry out terrorist attacks in the US. How ironic and contradictory is it then that the same judge enhanced Aafia’s sentence on the basis of a charge for which evidence was not even admitted?

Furthermore, the judge observed that the need for extended incarceration was there especially in view of the fear of the convict’s potential for recidivism, as in if released it was thought likely that she would relapse into crime. Again, it is extraordinary that someone who does not have a criminal history could be declared to have a tendency to recidivate.

In terms of sentencing, another unusual step taken by the judge was distribution of certain documents to the audience that contained different interpretations of the relevant US law on sentencing guidelines. Congress passed the Sentencing Reform Act in 1984 laying down mandatory sentencing guidelines for federal judges. One of the objectives of this law was to abolish indeterminate sentencing at the federal level. It also authorised the appellate review of sentences. However, on January 12, 2005, the US Supreme Court while interpreting the sixth amendment right to jury trial held that the federal sentencing guidelines were not mandatory but merely advisory in nature. Through this judgment, it also struck down the provision that permitted appellate review of any departures from these guidelines allowing judges to freely exercise their discretion while sentencing.

It appears that in Aafia’s case, the discretion exercised by the judge in sentencing Aafia undermined the objectives of US lawmakers to have uniformity, predictability and transparency in the criminal justice process in America.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Op Ed about Pakistani-American Syed Fahad Hashmi published in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

By Jeanne Theoharis (Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College)

Pale and gaunt, he stood there, having endured three years of pretrial solitary confinement. "Alhamdullilah," he said.

Yes. He had allowed an acquaintance to stay with him in his student apartment in London—an acquaintance who had raincoats, ponchos, and waterproof socks in his luggage, which the acquaintance later delivered to Al Qaeda.
---------
Eight years earlier, Fahad and I had sat across from each other in my office. A student in my civil-rights seminar, he had come in to discuss his final research paper. Months after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, he wanted to examine the denial of civil rights and constitutional protections that Muslim groups across the political spectrum were facing in the United States.
----------
A day before trial, the government dropped the other three charges. That it did so suggests that it had applied draconian pretrial measures, not because it considered Fahad a high-level terrorist, but to induce his cooperation or conviction.

Six weeks later, Judge Preska sentenced him to 15 years in prison. At the sentencing, it became clear that Fahad posed a threat not only because of luggage brought to his apartment, but because of his ideology. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brendan McGuire called it "an ideology of violence and intolerance," noting that "not every person who supports Al Qaeda is going to pull a trigger or throw a bomb or launch an attack." Citing Fahad's "anti-American jihadist ideology," the judge echoed that McCarthyesque logic of deterrence.
------------
We have freedom of speech and build bridges of dialogue and debate, I teach my students, and what makes that hard is that we have to hear things we do not like and be confronted with truths and opinions far removed from our own.

But those lessons are not upheld in our public culture, which has drawn arbitrary, silencing constrictions around the speech and association of Muslim-Americans. While Christian and Jewish political dissents regularly enter American public debate (militant Christian anti-abortion rhetoric, for instance, may be censured but is not criminalized), Islamic political dissent condemning U.S. practices becomes "subject to ferocious penalties," as Randolph Bourne decried long ago, and Fahad had quoted in his paper.

"If you see something, say something." Our duty, I believe, is different—to see in a terrorism suspect a person deserving of rights and humane treatment; to speak out against torture when it happens in a New York jail, not just when it occurs overseas; to insist that the Bill of Rights applies to all defendants all of the time. To take responsibility for the ways each of us has become complicit in the civil-rights violations of our era.We have freedom of speech and build bridges of dialogue and debate, I teach my students, and what makes that hard is that we have to hear things we do not like and be confronted with truths and opinions far removed from our own.


http://chronicle.com/article/My-Student-the-Terrorist/126937/

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, FoxNews.com 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 FoxNews.com 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: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/07/26/pakistan-may-seek-to-trade-hero-afridi-for-al-qaeda-linked-terrorist/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's wikileaks.org 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
From burton@stratfor.com
To sean.noonan@stratfor.com, hoor.jangda@stratfor.com, secure@stratfor.com
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:

http://www.amazon.com/Bloodmoney-Novel-Espionage-David-Ignatius/dp/0393078116/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1306935919&sr=8-1

i don't think we're going anywhere with this SSS thing, though it is
interesting.
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
Pakistan.

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

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.--....


https://wikileaks.org/gifiles/docs/16/1644311_re-pakistan-journalist-vanishes-is-the-isi-involved-.html

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.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/11048239/Aafia-Siddiqui-the-Pakistani-female-scientist-on-Isils-list-of-demands.html

Riaz Haq said...

Karachi-born Siddiqui, 42, attended two New England universities. She gained a PhD from Brandeis and then trained as a neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
She founded the Institute of Islamic Research and Teaching while living in the U.S.
Mother-of-three Siddiqui, who is 5 ft. 4 in. and weighs just 90 lb, was on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorist list after 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed mentioned her name during his 2003 interrogation.
Siddiqui, who is divorced from her first husband is now married to Ammar al-Baluchi, one of the 9/11 masterminds, who is currently being held in Guantanamo. He is the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Burqa-clad Siddiqui was arrested in Ghanzi, Afghanistan in 2008 after a local saw her poring over a map. He became suspicious as most women in that country are illiterate.
When she was held she had detailed plans on how to kill by spreading Ebola, making a dirty bomb and even a theoretical chemical weapon that somehow spared children while killing adults.


She also had two pounds of highly toxic sodium cyanide hidden in her bag and documents detailing potential New York targets for attack including Wall Street, the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and the subway system.
The documents also showed the Plum Island Animal Disease Center on Long Island Sound, New York - which was used for biological weapons testing during the Cold War - as another potential target.
During interrogation the day after her arrest she grabbed a rifle that had been left on a table and started shooting at her questioners. She failed to hit them but she was shot in the stomach as they returned fire.
Author Deborah Scroggins, who wrote a book about Siddiqui, calls her the 'poster child for jihadists around the world.'
'I doesn't surprise me that ISIS should call for her release, even though she is associated with al-Qaeda, because they want to take over al-Qaeda's mantle,' she told MailOnline.
'What better way to establish your bona fides than to exchange a prisoner for the jihadist's icon?'
Scroggins, whose book, Wanted Women: Faith, Lies, and the War on Terror was published in 2012, points out that Siddiqui received an 86-year jail sentence despite never harming anyone, and it has never been fully explained whether her plans were realistic or just in her head.


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2731164/ISIS-offered-swap-Foley-Lady-Al-Qaeda-Terrorists-wanted-return-MIT-graduate-jailed-U-S-planning-mass-casualty-strike-dirty-bomb-ebola-chemical-weapon-spared-children.html