Monday, February 15, 2010

Stephen Lendman on the Trial of Aafia Siddiqui

My guest today for my YouTube channel JamesFetzerNews was Stephen Lendman. Stephen, Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization and a Harvard graduate, has written extensively on a broad range of vital topics ranging from war and peace; social, economic and political equity for all; and justice for all the oppressed peoples of the world like the long-suffering people of Haiti and the Palestinians. He also co-hosts The Global Research News Hour, gives occasional public talks, and frequent appearances on radio and at times television.

Stephen is a prolific writer and regular contributor to Rebel News, OpEdNews, Atlantic Free Press, Dissident Voice and other alternative news websites--some of his writings can be found at He is also a regular at Counterpunch where he has published numerous articles--don't miss "A Short History of the Christian Right". You can visit his blog at and listen to The Global Research News Hour on Monday - Friday at 10 AM/CT time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Stephen Lendman on the Trial of Aafia Siddiqui

In this interview, Stephen discusses the trial of 37-year-old MIT-educated neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, which began on 19 January in New York and culminated in her being found guilty of attempting to shoot a team of US soldiers in Afghanistan in July 2008. Siddiqui now faces up to 50 years in prison on seven charges, including attempted murder, assault, and possession of a firearm while committing a violent crime. Siddiqui vehemently denied all the charges against her during the trial, calling them 'ridiculous' and insisting that she was framed, jailed, and tortured by US agents in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The prosecution could produce little forensic evidence to support its case. Their experts were unable to produce incriminating bullet cases or her fingerprints on the weapon she allegedly fired. An FBI agent testified that there were fingerprints, but they were not hers. That suggests there was a reasolnable alternative explanation, which means that she should not have been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But then, this was a "show trial", not a real prosecution.

Paul Craig Roberts, a former editor of the Wall Street Journal and an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, agrees: "The only evidence presented against her was the charge itself and an unsubstantiated claim that she had once taken a pistol-firing course at an American firing range. No evidence was presented of her fingerprints on the rifle that this frail and broken 100-pound woman had allegedly seized from an American soldier. No evidence was presented that a weapon was fired, no bullets, no shell casings, no bullet holes. Just an accusation."

Dr. Siddiqui is considered to be a “daughter of the nation” in Pakistan. The Pakistani Supreme Court recently called her case “the most important challenge for the country.” The Pakistani Parliament passed an overwhelming resolution supporting her and has forced the government to pay for her legal defense in U.S. courts. And yet, despite that a jury in a District Court in Manhattan found Siddiqui guilty of all seven counts against her, we still don't know how this frail, weak, 110-pound woman, confronted by three US Army officers, two FBI agents, and two Army interpreters, inexplicably managed to assault three of them, get one of their rifles, open fire at close range, hit no one, and only she was severely wounded--Siddiqui was shot twice in the stomach and it was reported that part of her intestines had to be removed to save her life.

Siddiqui lived in the U.S. for ten years before mysteriously vanishing from her hometown in Karachi in 2003, along with her three children, two of whom are American born. According to the account given by US authorities, she was taken into custody by Afghan security services in July of 2008 after they alleged having found a list of US targets for terrorist attacks as well as bomb-making instructions and assorted chemicals. Human rights groups and supporters believe that the charges against her amount to a frame-up that has been staged to cover up the fact that Siddiqui, along with her eldest son, had been held without charges in the US military’s notorious Bagram prison in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2008, where they were subjected to torture. Two of Dr. Siddiqui’s younger children are still missing.

Good articles:
"The Intelligence Factory: How America Makes its Enemies Disappear"
"US frame-up of Aafia Siddiqui begins to unravel"
"Yvonne Ridley on Dr. Aafia Siddiqui"
"Dr Aafia Siddiqui Found Guilty by American Jury on Feb 3, 2010"

Stephen has written two excellent pieces on Dr. Aafia, which I am reposting here.

Aafia Siddiqui: Victimized by American Injustice
by Stephen Lendman / February 8th, 2010

Stephen Lendman takes a look at the appalling abuse and destruction of a woman by the U.S. secret service aided and abetted by U.S. media.

Photo: Aafia Siddiqui after five years of U.S. torture

On February 3, a Department of Justice press release headlined “Aafia Siddiqui Found Guilty in Manhattan Federal Court of Attempting to Murder US Nationals in Afghanistan and Six Additional Charges.”

At her scheduled May 6 sentencing, she “faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each of the attempted murder and armed assault charges; life in prison on the firearms charge; and eight years in prison on each of the remaining assault charges. SIDDIQUI faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years in prison on the firearms charge.”

On February 3, New York Times writer CJ Hughes was headlined “Pakistani Scientist Found Guilty of Shootings,” convicting her on all seven counts, including attempted murder — “capping a trial that drew notice for its terrorist implications as well as its theatrics,” but omitting convincing evidence of Siddiqui’s innocence. Instead, Hughes said she was arrested with “instructions (in her purse) on making explosives and a list of New York landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building.” Her defense team acknowledged their existence, but Siddiqui denied packing them or knowing of their origin. She later suggested she copied them from a magazine, planned no terrorist acts, nor did her indictment claim them.

Hughes also said she “raised suspicions when she and her three children vanished in Pakistan in 2003.” She didn’t vanish. Her mother said she “left the family home in Gulshan-e-lqbal in a taxi on March 30, 2003 to catch a flight for Rawalpindi, but never reached the airport.” Pakistani intelligence agents abducted her, turned her over to US authorities, after which her long ordeal of secret imprisonment, interrogations, and years of brutalizing torture began, even though she wasn’t charged.

Her son Mohammed was later released on condition he say nothing. Her other two children, Maryam and Suleman, disappeared and may have been killed.

In May 2004, Pakistan’s Interior Minister confirmed she was turned over to US authorities in 2003 after no link between her and Al Qaeda was established. In 2006, Amnesty International called her one of many of the “disappeared” in America’s “war on terror.” In 2007, a Ghost Prisoner Human Rights Watch report suggested she was held in secret CIA detention.

In February 2008, the Asian Human Rights Commission said she was brought to Karachi and severely tortured to secure her compliance as a government witness against Khalid Shiekh Mohammed, the alleged 9/11 mastermind, related to Siddiqui through marriage to his nephew. He reportedly “gave her up” after capture on March 1, 2003, after which she and her children disappeared.

The charges were bogus and outrageous. Yet, on September 2, 2008, the Justice Department (DOJ) indicted her “on charges related to her attempted murder and assault of United States nationals and officers and employees.” According to Michael Garcia, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York (in his same day press release):

On July 18, 2008, “a team of United States servicemen and law enforcement officers, and others assisting them, attempted to interview Aafia Siddiqui in Ghazni, Aghanistan, where she had been detained by local police the day before… unbeknownst to the United States interview team, unsecured, behind a curtain — Siddiqui obtained one of the United States Army’s M-4 rifles and attempted to fire it, and did fire it, at another United States Army officer and other members of the United States interview team… Siddiqui then assaualted one of the United States Army interpreters, as he attempted to obtain the M-4 rifle from her. Siddiqui subsequently assaulted one of the FBI agents and one of the United States Army officers, as they attempted to subdue her.”

Left unexplained was how this frail, weak, 110-pound woman, confronted by three US Army officers, two FBI agents, and two Army interpreters, inexplicably managed to assault three of them, get one of their rifles, open fire at close range, hit no one, and only she was severely wounded.

According to her attorney, Elaine Whitfield Sharp: “How did this happen? And how did she get shot? I think you can answer that, can’t you (and question the outrageous charges against her)?”

During proceedings, another defense lawyer, Linda Moreno, said no forensic evidence proved the rifle Siddiqui allegedly used had been fired since no bullets, shell casings, or bullet debris were recovered and no bullet holes detected.

Garcia didn’t explain, nor about her abduction, torture and repeated raping at Bagram prison, Afghanistan where, as Prisoner 650, she was called the “Gray Lady of Bagram” because her screams were heard for years. Nor did he discuss her physical and emotional destruction. She was a pawn in America’s “war on terror,” used, abused, now convicted, and facing life in prison when sentenced, a victim of gross injustice.

Some Background

A Pakistani national, Siddiqui is deeply religious, attended MIT and Brandeis University where she earned a doctorate in neurocognitive science, married a Boston physician, raised money for charities, did volunteer work, distributed Korans to inmates in area prisons, and did nothing out of the ordinary. Yet the UK Times Online called her “Al-Qaeda woman.” For ABC News, she was “Mata Hari,” and the Justice Department targeted her as a terrorist, a woman guilty only of being Muslim in America at the wrong time.

When seized, the FBI said she was a potential “treasure trove” of information on terrorist suspects, sympathizers, or sleepers in America and overseas. CIA officer John Kiriakou called her “the most significant capture in five years,” and an unnamed counterterrorism official said she’s “a very dangerous person, no doubt about it.” FBI Director Robert Mueller said she’s “an Al Qaeda operative and facilitator.” He and the others lied.

Those who knew her recalled she was very small, quiet, polite, and shy, barely noticeable in a gathering. However, she’d say what was needed when necessary. Her fellow students described her as soft-spoken, studious, religious, but not extremist or fundamentalist. She taught Muslim children on Sundays, and was dedicated to helping oppressed Muslims worldwide. She spoke publicly, sent emails, gave slideshow presentations, and raised donations as part of her faith, activism, and sincerity. Yet she was targeted as “a high security risk” despite no evidence then or now to prove it.

Siddiqui is innocent of all charges, yet the DOJ claimed she was involved in biochemical warfare. In fact, she devised a computer program, enlisted adult volunteers to watch various objects move randomly across the screen, then reproduce what they recalled. The idea was to learn how well they retained information after viewing it on a computer. It had nothing to do with terrorism, biochemical warfare, or blowing up New York targets, charges never appearing in her indictment.

Siddiqui’s Trial and Conviction

Against her lawyers’ advice, she spoke publicly for the first time, despite the risk and her frail condition. She explained her academic work, her post-doctorate teaching, her interests that included studying the capabilities of dyslexic and other impaired children, then recounted her ordeal.

After being abducted, she agonized over the fate of her children. In US custody, the relevant incident leading to her indictment went as follows:

– at one point, she was tied down;
– then untied;
– left behind a curtain;
– peaked through it; and
– an American soldier shot her in the stomach;
– another in her side;
– then violently threw her to the floor unconscious.

She vaguely remembered being on a stretcher, placed in a helicopter, and getting a blood transfusion. She emphatically denied seizing and firing a weapon.

Under cross-examination, she said she was given the bag with incriminating documents, didn’t know its contents or whether handwriting on them was hers. She explained her repeated torture at Bagram, the effects of the strong medications given her, and at one point said, “If you were in a secret prison, or your children were tortured,” after which she was forcibly removed from court and the proceedings continued without her.

According to media reports, these revelations were “outbursts.” On January 25, New York Times writer CJ Hughes reported numerous “disruptions… plagu(ing) the trial. Monday (January 25) was hardly an exception. The defendant was ejected from (court) — not once, but twice (for) loudly proclaiming her innocence.” On January 19, she “had several outbursts in previous court appearances, raising questions about her competency to stand trial.”

On February 4, AP writer Tom Hays said “True to form, Aafia Siddiqui did not go quietly,” called her comments “combative,” then claimed the prosecution presented “compelling testimony.”

On February 5, the Islamophobic headlined “How a ‘Nice American Girl’ Became a Jihadist,” saying “veiled Muslim women can be very aggressive, murderously so.”

On February 3, the New York Daily News headlined, “Lady Al Qaeda Aafia Siddiqui convicted of attempted murder.” Writer Alison Gendar accepted DOJ’s charges as fact and added some of her own, saying:

“She grabbed a rifle at an ‘Afghan police station’ (she was at Bagram) and started shooting at the Americans sent to grill her. She was shot by the soldier whose weapon she swiped. (In 2008, she was) caught in ‘Afghanistan’ with ‘2 pounds of poisonous chemicals.’ (During the trial), she disrupted the proceedings several times with ’strange outbursts.’ ”

An August 22, 2008 Fox News report said “emails obtained by show messages sent by Siddiqui (during her time at MIT) soliciting money for Al-Kifah Refugee Center — a known Al Queda charitable front tied to Usama bin Laden and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.”

After a three week trial and two days of deliberation, a federal jury of eight women and four men convicted her on all charges, including attempted murder, armed assault, discharging a firearm during a violent crime, and assaulting US officers and employees. As a result, she potentially faces life in prison at her May 6 sentencing. It’s not confirmed, but her lawyers may appeal given the bogus charges, long detention, and brutalizing torture, leaving her a shell of her former self, so physically and emotionally shattered she was in no condition to stand trial.

After the verdict, headlined “US verdict sparks Pakistan protests,” saying thousands in several cities rallied in her defense. Her relatives spoke publicly condemning the decision, her sister Fauzia saying “we’re proud to be related to her. America’s justice system, the establishment, the war on terror, the fraud of the war on terror, all of those things have shown their own ugly faces.”

Her mother, Ismat, said, “I did not expect anything better from an American court. We were ready for the shock and will continue our struggle to get her released.” Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman, Abdul Basit, said the government would try “to get her back to Pakistan and we would do everything possible and we’ll apply all possible tools in this regard.”

Al Jazeera’s Islamabad correspondent, Kamal Hyder, explained the public disappointment “for failing to find a diplomatic way out and getting (her) back home, because they feel she was innocent.” She was missing for five years like “many hundreds of (others who’ve) disappeared from Pakistan — still not accounted for — and now that Dr. Aafia’s case has come up, that’s likely to be a rallying point for the anti-American sentiment.”

The UK-based Cageprisoners spokesman, Asim Qureshi, said, “The case of Aafia Siddiqui carries great significance in terms of the ability of the Obama administration to administer justice. Already we have seen a blanket refusal to look at the facts of her detention prior to 2008. This verdict will only confirm what many already believe, that it is impossible for Muslim terrorism suspects to receive a fair trial in the US.”

Defense lawyer Elaine Whitfield Sharp called the verdict unjust, in her opinion “based on fear… not fact,” and the result is the continued ordeal of an innocent woman facing a potential life sentence.

Carefully orchestrated, the trial proceeded like numerous others, targeting innocent victims because of their faith, ethnicity, prominence, benevolent charity, activism, or other reasons for political advantage, ending with convictions and punitive incarcerations against innocent defendants, guilty of being Muslims in America at the wrong time when we’re all just as vulnerable.

In a manipulated climate of fear, the same process repeats, using bogus charges, secret evidence, enlisted witnesses to cooperate, the defense prohibited from introducing exculpatory evidence, and proceedings carefully scripted to intimidate juries to convict.

Justice is again denied, Siddiqui another victim, a human tragedy, portrayed by the dominant media as a jihadist, and getting public sentiment to agree because disturbing truths are carefully suppressed.

The Abduction, Secret Detention, Torture, and Repeated Raping of Aafia Siddiqui
by Stephen Lendman / December 15th, 2008

Post-9/11, the “war on terror” has been a jihad against Islam, the colonizers v. the colonized, or what Edward Said called “the familiar (America, Europe, us) and the strange (the Orient, East, them).” Dr. Aafia Siddiqui is one of its most tragic, aggrieved, and ravaged victims. Her ordeal continues horrifically.

Boston Magazine’s Katherine Oxment asked: “Who’s afraid of Aafia Siddiqui? She went to MIT and Brandeis, married a (physician, lived in Boston), cared for her children… raised money for charities… did other volunteer work, hosted play groups in her apartment, (is) deeply religious… distribute(d) Korans to inmates in area prisons,” and did nothing out of the ordinary. (She) “was a normal woman living a normal American life. Until the FBI called her a terrorist… a high-profile Al Qaeda operative,” but we’ve seen these charges before, and each time they were bogus. They’re egregiously so against Aafia — a woman guilty only of being Muslim at the wrong time in America or elsewhere if you’re on Washington’s target list.

Against her and others, no evidence exists so prosecutors invent it. Most (or key parts) is kept classified, unavailable to the defense, and trials are judicial equivalents of circuses. Witnesses are enlisted, pressured, coerced, and/or bought off to cooperate. Proceedings are carefully orchestrated. Due process is effectively denied, and juries are intimidated to convict the innocent for political advantage.

The dominant media cooperate. Using information from Washington Post writer, Douglas Farah, and other sources, writer Lindsey Worth of FMS, Inc. referred to “the mysterious Aafia Siddiqui… allegedly Al Qaeda’s only female leader” in connecting her to “the Al Queda diamond operation” in West Africa.

The Times Online calls Aafia “Al-Qaeda woman,” and for ABC News she’s “Mata Hari” in a lengthy report featuring unsubstantiated charges against her, including:

  • possessing detailed radiological, chemical and biological information, including possessing a liter of cyanide and instructions for a “dirty bomb;”
  • more documents for a mass casualty attack;
  • a list of New York targets, including the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building, Wall Street, and the animal disease center on Plum Island;
  • terrorist recruiting;
  • possessing excerpts from “The Anarchist’s Arsenal;”
  • “documents detailing US military assets;”
  • methods of attack by reconnaissance drones, underwater bombs and gliders; and
  • a thumb (or flash) drive packed with emails detailing “specific cells” and planned attacks to carry out.

According to the FBI, she is, or was when captured, a potential “treasure trove” of information on terrorist supporters, sympathizers or sleepers in America and overseas. CIA officer John Kiriakou said she’s “the most significant capture in five years,” and an unnamed counterterrorism official called her “a very dangerous person, no doubt about it.”

For Kiriakou, she’s a “radical” involved in planning “a wide variety of different operations (perhaps with WMDs),” including a “possible attempt on the life of the President.” Unnamed sources from three federal agencies accused her of an “ill conceived” and perhaps amateurish plot to “kill all living US presidents,” including Jimmy Carter by poisoning.

By marriage to his nephew, she’s also reputedly linked to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the “principal architect of the 9/11 attacks,” according to the 9/11 Commission. He reportedly “gave her up” after capture on March 1, 2003, and shortly thereafter she and her children disappeared.

The DOJ also connects her to Adnan El Shukrijumah, another suspected Al Qaeda member “involved in terrorist planning with senior Al Qaeda leaders overseas and across America,” according to John Ashcroft.

Aafia’s friends and family deny all charges. They call her an innocent victim of US persecution, and an especially egregious one for being ravaged in detention. One supporter (Abu Sabaya) said this about the woman he knew:

“I want you to come to know of the concern and dedication that this woman had for Islam as described by those who knew her — a dedication that was manifested by way of actions that were very simple and easy, yet seldom carried out by those who are able.

Those who knew Aafia recall that she was a very small, quiet, polite, and shy woman who was barely noticeable in a gathering. However… she would say what (was) needed” when necessary.

While at MIT, she organized drives to deliver Korans and other Islamic literature to Muslims in local prisons. She was also dedicated to Islam on campus where fellow students described her as soft-spoken, studious, religious, but not extremist or fundamentalist. She wrote three instructional guides on the faith. More as well on how to run a daw’ah table to provide religious information and training for da’iyas (callers to Islam). She wrote:

Imagine our humble, but sincere daw’ah effort turning into a major daw’ah movement in this country! Just imagine it! And us, reaping the reward of everyone who accepts Islam throught this movement (for) years to come. Think and plan big. May Allah give this strength and sincerity to us so that our humble effort continues and expands until America becomes a Muslim land.

Aafia taught local Muslim children on Sundays, but her greatest passion was to help oppressed Muslims worldwide. She spoke publicly, sent emails, gave slideshow presentations, and raised donations while a student and caring for three young children at home.

Because of her faith, activism, and passion for the oppressed, it’s little wonder she was targeted and why Assistant US Attorney Christopher LaVigne called her “a high security risk” despite no evidence to prove it.

Her Background and What Happened

Aafia is a Pakistani national with degrees from MIT and a doctorate in neurocognitive science from Brandeis. Despite false media reports, she’s not a microbiologist, geneticist or neurologist. Nor did her training provide expertise for WMD terrorism. As her lawyer, Elaine Whitfeld Sharp, explains:

The prosecution claimed “that Aafia was involved in biochemical warfare. She wasn’t taking brain cells and testing how they reacted to gases. But there’s all this news in the media about the changing face of Al Qaeda, the neurobiology scare, and now we’ve got this MIT graduate with a Brandeis Ph.D. who’s cooking up all these viruses.”

Boston Magazine writer Katherine Ozment explained what Aafia “was actually cooking up” – the simple concept that people learn by imitation. To study it, “she devised a computer program and used adult volunteers, who came to her office and watched various objects move randomly across the screen, then reproduced what they recalled. The point was to see how well they retained the information having seen in on the screen.”

Brandeis professor of cognitive science Paul DiZio laughed about how this could apply to terrorism. “I can’t see how it can be applied to anything. It’s not applied work. It didn’t have a medical aspect to it. And, as a computer expert, she was competent. But you know, calling her a mastermind or something (is ludicrous) — I never saw any evidence.”

She and her husband (a medical resident at the time at Brigham and Women’s Hospital) used their apartment for a 1999 nonprofit organization they began called the Institute of Islamic Research and Teaching. It had nothing to do with terrorism. According to the neighborhood Mosque’s Imam, Abdullah Faruuq: “What I know of (Aafia) is that she was living here in America, and her organization was for sharing Islamic information with the American people.”

Faruuq was impressed with her dedication. “Aafia was an American girl and a good sister.” She also wanted her husband to use his medical skills to help the less fortunate. Despite her devout faith, “there was nothing radical about Siddiqui. She just seemed like a very kind person.”

She’s also a mother of three, and a victim of extreme viciousness in detention. According to her mother, Ismet, she “left the family home in Gulshan-e-lqbal in a taxi on March 30 to catch a flight for Rawalpindi, but never reached the airport.” Inside sources claim she was picked up by intelligence agents en route, and initial reports suggest then handed over to the FBI.

She was missing for over a year when the agency posted her photographs on its web site. Shortly afterward, a story was leaked about her involvement in the 2001 Liberian diamond trade with her as an Al Qaeda operative. The family’s attorney, Elaine Whitfield Sharp, called the allegation a blessing in disguise because it placed Aafia in Liberia at a specific time when she can prove she was in Boston that week.

Aafia’s mother says that only days after her daughter’s disappearance, a man on motorcycle came to her family home and warned her to say nothing about what happened if she wanted to see Aafia and her grandchildren again. She hasn’t since, and according to the Pakistani Urdu press, the family was picked up by local authorities and taken into custody. A government interior ministry spokesman and two unnamed US officials confirmed the report in the press. They then retracted their statements, but local Chicago NBC news (based on a Press Trust of India account) reported that Aafia was being interrogated by US intelligence officials.

At the time, the FBI website stated: “Although the FBI has no information indicating this individual is connected to specific terrorist activities, the FBI would like to locate and question this individual.” The agency knew full well what happened — that Aafia was in secret detention, that her horrific ordeal had begun, and that they and other US authorities were involved.

A Brief Timeline of Affia’s Case

– March 18, 2003: the FBI issues an alert requesting information about Aafia;

– March 29: UPI reports that the FBI believes Aafia may be an Al Qaeda “fixer,” transferring money to support “terrorist” operations;

– March 30: Aafia disappears en route to the airport for a flight to Rawalpindi;

– April 3: CNN reports that Al Qaeda figure Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (arrested March 1) mentioned Aafia during interrogation; Pakistani authorities deny any knowledge of her whereabouts;

– April 4: the FBI denies that it captured and is detaining Aafia;

– May 26: John Ashcroft and FBI director Robert Mueller cite reports that Al Queda plans an attack on the US in the summer or fall; Aafia is named as an Al Qaeda “operative and facilitator” and is one of seven Al Qaeda members being sought;

– May 28, 2004: Pakistan’s Interior Ministry confirms that Aafia was turned over to US authorities in 2003 after it was unable to establish any links she may have had with Al Qaeda;

– A 2006 Amnesty International report includes Aafia as one of many of the “disappeared” in the “war on terror;”

– A 2007 Ghost Prisoner Human Rights Watch report said that Aafia “may have once been held” in secret CIA detention;

– A February 2008 Asian Human Rights Commission report said Aafia was brought to Karachi and severely tortured to secure her compliance as a government witness against Khalid Shiekh Mohammed;

– July 7, 2008: UK journalist Yvonne Ridley identifies Aafia as “Prisoner 650″ at the US Bagram, Afghanistan torture-prison;

– July 11: US Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green denies that any women are being held at Bagram;

– July 31: the FBI tells Aafia’s brother that she’s in US custody;

– August 4: a DOJ press release says that Afghanistan National Police arrested Aafia in Ghazni on July 17 and that she was wounded the next day while trying to shoot US Army personnel;

– August 6: US Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis orders Aafia be held without bail; her court-appointed lawyer, Elizabeth Fink, says charges against her are “absurd;” a bail hearing was set for August 11 and another for August 18 to determine if she should be tried;

– August 12: the Washington Pakistani embassy formally requests that Aafia be repatriated to Pakistan;

– August 13: the US military in Afghanistan denies it ever held Aafia in detention and that an unnamed female prisoner was someone else;

– September 12: according to a report in MIT’s The Tech, court documents released today indicate that Aafia “was diagnosed with chronic depressive type psychosis;”

– September 23: Judge Richard Berman enters a “not guilty” plea on behalf of Aafia; she refuses to come to court because doing so requires she be strip-searched; he sets December 17 as the next hearing date to determine her fitness to stand trial; he also sets March 9, 2009 as a tentative trial date;

– September 29: World Net Daily reports that for the “first time since 9/11, counterterrorism field agents have been authorized to spy on young Muslim men and women — including American citizens — who have traveled to Pakistan without any specific evidence (suggesting) wrongdoing;”

– October 2: Aafia is moved to the Carswell Federal Medical Center, Fort Worth, TX for psychiatric evaluation; in vain, her lawyer pleaded that she not be sent because she urgently needs medical treatment;

– October 6: Pakistani senators Mushahid Hussain Syed, Sadia Abbasi Mehmood, and SM Zafar met with Aafia; Faqir Saeed of the Pakistani embassy as well; she tells them of her ordeal — that she was abducted in 2003, given an injection, found herself in a cell, and was forced to sign papers and confess to things she didn’t do; her children’s lives were threatened and she was abused grievously;

– November 17: Judge Richard Berman indicates that a psychiatric evaluation indicates that Aafia is “not competent to proceed as a result of her mental disease, which renders her unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against her;”

– December 17: the next scheduled date (in New York District Court) to determine if Aafia is fit to stand trial;

– March 9, 2009: the tentative date for Aafia’s trial to begin.

The US Bagram, Afghanistan Torture-Prison

After her abduction, Aafia disappeared into Bagram hell and was known only as “Prisoner 650.” Then later, by released prisoners, as the “Gray Lady of Bagram” because of her screams they heard for years.

At one time, Bagram (north of Kabul at the US air base) held twice as many prisoners as Guantanamo and likely still holds hundreds. They’re crammed into wire cages, routinely tortured, forced to sleep on floor mats, and have buckets for latrines, or at least did until recently. Many prisoners are held secretly, have been there for years, have no access to lawyers, or any knowledge of the allegations against them. Most, perhaps all, are innocent victims and guilty only of being Muslims at the wrong time in the wrong place.

What’s known about Bagram comes from released or transfered prisoners who got access to counsel. In early 2008, the New York Times also reported that the International Committee of the Red Cross filed a confidential complaint with US authorities charging that its detainees were held incommunicado for weeks or months in isolation cells and subjected to cruel treatment (torture) in violation of international law.

In February 2005, the London Guardian reported that a prisoner named Mustafa was blindfolded, handcuffed, gagged, and forced to bend down over a table by three US soldiers. They then “forcibly rammed a stick up my rectum… I could not stop screaming when this happened.”

Another case involved Wesam Abdulrahman Ahmed Al Deemawi. For over a 40 days, he was threatened with dogs, stripped and photographed “in shameful and obscene positions,” placed in a cage with a hook and hanging rope, and hung on it blindfolded for two days. Both men were never charged and were later released.

Other prisoners were beaten, chained, hung from the ceiling by their wrists, and subjected to numerous other tortures and indignities — for months or years. In some cases so horrifically they died. Aafia and other women were (and still are) at Bagram and other US torture-prisons (including torture-ships at sea), according to British journalist Yvonne Ridley: “There are many Muslim women in the captivity of American forces and if (people remain) silent, (they’ll) lose their sisters forever.” Some are treated even worse than Aafia.

Ridley wrote about Bagram’s “Prisoner 650″ and her ordeal of torture and repeatedly being raped for over four years. “The cries of (this) helpless woman echoed (with such torment) in the jail that (it) prompted prisoners to go on hunger strike.” Ridley called her a “gray lady (because) she (was) almost a ghost, a spectre whose cries and screams continue to haunt those who heard her. This would never happen to a Western woman.” It did to Aafia, other Muslim women as well, and their ordeal continues horrifically.

US and International Law on Prisoners of War and Enforced Disappearances

US and international law are clear and unequivocal on prisoner detentions and their treatment. America under George Bush defiles it, and, given the rogue team he’s assembled, the Obama administration (with or without Guantanamo) promises little or no change. These practices are grievous crimes of war and against humanity and should never be tolerated against anyone for any reason. Yet they persist.

The US War Crimes Act (1996) defines these offenses as grave breaches under the Geneva Conventions (1949) and violations of its Common Article 3. It states in part:

  • … “the following acts are prohibited at any time and in any place…
  • violence to life and person (including) murder, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
  • … humiliating and degrading treatment;”
  • sentencing or executing detainees “without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees… recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples;” and
  • assuring wounded and sick are (properly) cared for.

The US Army Field Manual 27-10 is also explicit on the rule of law. It incorporates the Nuremberg Principles prohibiting crimes against humanity, and specifically obligates soldiers to disobey illegal orders or be subject to prosecution under international law. Paragraph 498 states that any person, military or civilian, who commits a crime under international law bears responsibility and may be punished. Paragraph 499 defines a “war crime.” Paragraph 509 denies the defense of superior orders in the commission of a crime, and paragraph 510 denies the defense of an “act of state.”

Under Article VI of the Constitution (the supremacy clause), international law is part of domestic law, and US presidents take an oath under Article II, Section 1, Clause 7 to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution…” Further, Article II, Section 3 requires the president to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully exercised.”

International human rights law also strictly prohibits secret detentions. Under Principle 6 of the (May 1989) UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions:

“Governments shall ensure that persons deprived of their liberty are (to be) held in officially recognised places of custody, and that accurate information on their custody and whereabouts, including transfers, is made promptly available to their relatives and lawyers or other persons of confidence.”

US and international laws leave no ambiguity on torture or its seriousness when practiced. The (1949) Third Geneva Convention’s Article 13 (on the Treatment of Prisoners of War) states:

Detainees “must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited… (these persons) must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation…”

Third Geneva also prohibits physical or mental torture, all other forms of coercion, collective punishment, corporal punishments, and any type of violence. These acts are “war crimes.” Various other US and international laws also prohibit them, yet they’re official US policy, so far with impunity.

In December 1992, the UN General Assembly passed the Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance. It states that:

“any act of enforced disappearance is an offence to human dignity.” It “places the persons subjected thereto outside the protection of the law and inflicts severe suffering on them and their families. It constitutes a violation of the rules of international law guaranteeing, inter alia (among other things), the right to recognition as a person before the law, the right to liberty and security of the person, and the right not to be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment…. No state shall practice, permit or tolerate enforced disappearances” and must terminate any such acts “in any territory under its jurisdiction.” Such practices are crimes of war and against humanity.

In 2005, the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHR&GJ, New York University School of Law) published a report titled: “Fate and Whereabouts Unknown: Detainees in the “War on Terror.” It presented “factual summaries of (28) individuals who may be in secret (US) detention sites” and included known information about Aafia at the time.

CHR&GJ said enforced disappearances happen “when individuals are deprived of their liberty by state agents and the state fails to provide information about their fate or whereabouts; through these actions, detainees are placed outside the protection of law.”

“Disappearances” include these practices:

  • individuals (often unidentified) held in secret US-run or controlled “black sites;”
  • individuals in foreign-based sites under US control or direction;
  • individuals “extraordinarily renditioned” to “black” or other sites; and
  • individuals held in conflict areas and not properly registered and/or identified, such as CIA “ghost prisoners” on US military facilities like at Bagram.

United States of America v. Aafia Siddiqui

On September 2, the Justice Department (DOJ) indicted Aafia “for attempting to kill United States Nationals in Afghanistan and Six Additional Charges.” On September 4, she was arraigned before Judge Richard Berman in US District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Michael Garcia, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, stated (in a September 2 press release) that on July 18, 2008, “a team of United States servicemen and law enforcement officers, and others assisting them, attempted to interview Aafia Siddiqui in Ghazni, Afghanistan, where she had been detained by local police the day before… unbeknownst to the United States interview team, unsecured, behind a curtain — Siddiqui obtained one of the United States Army officer’s M-4 rifles and attempted to fire it, and did fire it, at another United States Army officer and other members of the United States interview team…

Siddiqui then assaulted one of the United States Army interpreters, as he attempted to obtain the M-4 rifle from her. Siddiqui subsequently assaulted one of the FBI agents and one of the United States Army officers, as they attempted to subdue her.”

Garcia said nothing about years of torture and rape at Bargram or that this frail, weakened, 110 pound woman was confronted by three US Army officers, two FBI agents, and two Army interpreters, yet inexplicably managed to assault three of them, get one of their rifles, open fire at close range, hit no one, and only she was severely wounded. As her attorney put it:

“Picture this woman who is very tiny (and extremely frail and weakened from her ordeal), and ask yourself how she engaged in armed conflict… with six (armed and well-trained) military men, how did this happen? And how did she get shot? I think you can answer that, can’t you (and question the absurdity of DOJ’s charges against her)?

Garcia outlined, but didn’t indict, on the above-listed allegations about specific “cells,” handwritten notes about a “mass casualty attack,” constructing “dirty bombs,” and using various devices and means to deliver them. It was also alleged that before 9/11 she travelled to Liberia where she was involved in illegal diamond trading to support Al Qaeda and then opened a Baltimore post office box for one of its members. None of these claims are credible or showed up in her indictment.

Count One

Attempted Murder of United States Nationals by obtaining a US Army Officer’s M-4 rifle and attempting to fire and firing it at him, two other US Interview Team members, and repeatedly stating her intent and desire to kill Americans.

Count Two

Attempted Murder of United States Officers and Employees in the same manner while they were engaged in and on account of the performance of their official duties.

Count Three

Armed Assault of United States Officers and Employees in the same manner.

Count Four

Discharge of A Firearm During (a) Crime of Violence as described above.

Count Five

Assault of United States Officers and Employees as described above.

Count Six

(Further charges of) Assault of United States Officers and Employees as described above.

Count Seven

(More charges of) Assault of United States Officers and Employees as described above.

Aafia’s Deteriorating Health

In response to British MP Lord Nazir’s letter on Aafia’s whereabouts, US authorities confirmed that she’s incarcerated at Carswell Federal Medical Center, Fort Worth, TX (pursuant to an October 1, 2008 US District Court, NY judicial directive) where she’s undergoing psychiatric evaluation, but not getting desperately needed medical attention.

Nazir earlier raised questions about her detention and said “she (was) physically tortured and continuously raped by the officers at the (Bagram) prison” — for over four years. He now wants her immediately released and repatriated to Pakistan after it was learned she’s held on dubious charges plus all the horrific treatment she endured — yet is guilty of nothing.

Aafia is in deplorable condition and, according to Judge Berman, not in a correct state of mind to stand trial. On August 7, 2008, Iqbal Haider, Co-chairperson of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expressed concern about her. He called it shocking and of grave concern that pictures of her show a beat-up frail and helpless woman, the effects of years of torture, abuse, and continuous rape. There are dark circles under her eyes, a badly repaired broken nose, “made up” teeth and crumbled lips, and overall “a picture of a severely dehydrated, sick person almost as if on the death bed. It shows the inhumane brutality of an apparently civilised nation by the administration of a country which claims to be much civilised.”

According to HRCP and Aafia’s family, her physical condition is deplorable, and she badly needs immediate medical treatment outside the Carswell prison where it’s not given. “Her wound was oozing blood,” and her clothes were soaked in it. Earlier in custody, one of her kidneys was removed, yet her abdominal pain persists. She has large stitches down her torso from the surgery, negligently done, and may be suffering from internal bleeding. Her teeth were removed. Her nose was broken and improperly reset. Her gunshot wound was incompetently dressed, and her overall condition is dire and life-threatening.

This poor woman was savaged by a criminal state operating outside the law for political advantage. Her outrageous treatment continues. Her son, Ahmed (a US citizen), is being detained in Afghanistan, but the whereabouts of her other two children is unknown.

A Final Comment

Post-9/11, the Bush administration:

  • declared permanent war without cause;
  • ravaged Iraq and Afghanistan;
  • incited and/or engaged in other direct and proxy wars;
  • militarized the country;
  • enacted repressive police state laws;
  • trashed the rule of law;
  • made human and civil rights a nonstarter;
  • defiled every human dignity imaginable;
  • institutionalized illegal spying and electoral theft;
  • made torture official US policy;
  • criminalized dissent;
  • waged war on working Americans;
  • engineered the largest ever wealth transfer to the rich;
  • turned government into a crime syndicate;
  • looted the national treasury;
  • bankrupted the nation;
  • criminally defrauded the public; and
  • waged a global jihad against Islam.

Aafia is one of its most aggrieved. She’s been destroyed physically and emotionally. Her former being no longer exists. Her survival is in jeopardy, yet she remains incarcerated, has been indicted, will be tried, likely convicted, and may spend the rest of her life in prison. And for what? For her faith, devoutness, ethnicity, humble charity, all at the wrong time in America. The message to everyone is clear. We’re all Aafia Siddiquis.

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