Reaction to Aafia Siddiqui’s Sentencing – by Stephen Lendman
On September 23, the FBI headlined, “Aafia Siddiqui Sentenced in Manhattan Federal Court to 86 Years for Attempting to Murder US Nationals in Afghanistan and Six Additional Crimes.” In sentencing, Judge Richard Berman ruled her acts premeditated, contradicting jurors saying they were not. More on the press release below.
No matter that she’s completely innocent, and has been a US political prisoner since her March 30, 2003 abduction, incarceration, torture, prosecution, and conviction on bogus charges. Her case is one of America’s most egregious examples of horrific abuse and injustice, climaxed by her virtual life sentence for an alleged crime she never committed.
Yet she was convicted for these claimed felonies:
(1) one count of trying to kill US nationals outside the US;
(2) one count of trying to kill US officers and employees;
(3) one count of armed assault of US officers and employees;
(4) one count of using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence; and
(5) three counts of assault of US officers and employees.
Earlier articles about her can be accessed through the following links:
Gloating about another victory, like a predator over its prey, the FBI quoted Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara saying:
“As a unanimous jury found beyond a reasonable doubt (they’re all unanimous or hung), Aafia Siddiqui attempted to murder Americans serving in Afghanistan, as well as their Afghan colleagues,” though only Americans were with her in Bagram Prison at the time the alleged incident took place, as follows:
In the presence of two FBI agents, two Army interpreters, and three US Army officers, this frail 110 pound woman allegedly assaulted three of them, seized one of their rifles, opened fire at close range, hit no one, yet she alone was severely wounded.
It was her word against theirs. At trial, no credible evidence was presented, because there was none, not even her fingerprints on the alleged weapon. The charges were concocted, bogus and absurd, not even rising to the level of a bad film plot, yet jurors were intimidated to convict.
A Pakistani/American scientist, home visiting her family in 2003, local authorities abducted her at the behest of Washington, after which she was handed over and incarcerated at America’s infamous Bagram Prison, Afghanistan.
Yet the FBI statement says: “SIDDIQUI was detailed (on July 17, 2008) by Afghan authorities,” who found alleged incriminating items “in her possession” about a “mass casualty attack” planned against high-profile New York targets. “Other notes….referred to the construction of ‘dirty bombs,’ (and) ways to attack ‘enemies,’ including by destroying reconnaissance drones, using underwater bombs, and deploying gliders.”
Yet these charges weren’t in her indictment, exposing them as spurious. Instead, on July 18, 2008, she was accused of allegedly disarming and attacking seven armed Americans during interrogation.
Rampaging Imperial America
Post-9/11, America declared war on Islam to justify rampaging globally, focused heavily on Eurasia’s mineral wealth, principally Middle Eastern oil, comprising two-thirds of the world’s proved reserves.
Abroad, illegal imperial wars and occupations followed. At home, Muslims have been victimized, vilified, and persecuted for their faith, ethnicity, prominence, and activism – opportunistically targeted for political advantage. They’ve been singled out, hunted down, rounded up, held in detention, kept in isolation, denied bail, brutally tortured, restricted in their right to counsel, tried on secret evidence, convicted on bogus charges, given long sentences, and incarcerated as political prisoners or extraordinarily renditioned to a similar or worse fate abroad.
Victims are innocent pawns in the war on terror, mocking the rule of law, judicial fairness, and democratic freedoms – the modus operandi of rogue states, calling wars of aggression liberating ones, suppressing civil liberties for our own good, and rampaging globally for alleged “democratic freedoms,” ones America won’t tolerate at home or abroad.
US v. Pakistani Media Reports
After her sentencing, US media reports highlighted bogus government charges, ignoring the truth and Aafia’s horrific treatment. CBS, for example, affirmed allegations that she’s an “Al Qaeda supporter” and “cold-blooded radical.” CNN noted her “Anarchist’s Arsenal.” ABC News called her “Lady Qaeda.”
Wall Street Journal writer Chad Bray referred to her alleged “mass casualty attack” plan on New York landmarks, and for Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, she’s a “terror mom (and) reputed Al Qaeda associate,” a Bruce Golding headline saying, “Judge throws book at Pakistani plotter….’terror mom’ has been eighty-sixed.”
Note the difference in Pakistan. The entire country is outraged – in Karachi (Aafia’s home city), Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Faisalabad, Hyderabad, Lehore, Quetta, Peshawar, Multan, and elsewhere.
Dawn.com headlined “Pakistanis furious over Aafia Siddiqui’s sentence,” saying:
In Karachi, “Pakistanis burned tires, (Obama effigies), and chanted anti-US slogans after a New York (hanging) judge handed down an 86-year sentence” on bogus charges. Her case “has long stirred passions in Pakistan….where anti-American sentiment is (deservedly) widespread.”
“Many Pakistanis believe the US abducted Siddiqui and kept her in a secret prison for years as it pursued its war on terror.” News of her “harsh sentence immediately sparked anger and disbelief.” In Peshawar, angry protestors burned tires and shouted “Down with America!” Pakistan’s president and prime minister were also named, and “Some hit a portrait of….Obama with their shoes.”
Islamabad students were also outraged, shouting “Crush America, Siddiqui is our sister,” and “We will bring her back.”
More in Multan where dozens of lawyers and activists blocked traffic, shouting “Down with America,” and burning effigies of Obama and former Pakistani despot Pervez Musharra.
In Peshawar, thousands of political, social, and religious activists protested on city streets, holding banners and placards condemning the sentence. They demanded Aafia’s release and end to US Waziristan drone attacks.
A supportive Pakistan Times editorial called America “an authoritarian, arrogant superpower,” and Aafia’s sentence “unheard of….people will be waiting to see how (Obama reacts). Only time will tell if the US president will step in to mitigate (this outrage) by either pardoning Dr. Aafia or sending her back to Pakistan to serve at least part of her sentence in her home country.”
“Dr. Aafia may very well become the poster-child for increased hatred against the US and more sympathy for the militants,” a possibility both countries should consider.
Aafia’s sister, Fauzia, called the sentence “a slap in the face of our rulers, who have pledged and made promises to bring” her back.
Addressing a supportive rally, she said they failed miserably to help Aafia. “The sentence bears testimony to the fact that this government is a puppet of the US. We are peaceful people, and our aim is to bring back Aafia.”
Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit expressed “disappoint(ment with) the sentence and sad that our efforts….did not succeed. We are still in touch with the US administration to see what possible options are available. We are not giving up.” At issue is whether they ever tried, given the ties between the countries “in the fight against Terrorist militancy….”
The International Tribune reported that Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik said government efforts “will surely bring (her back), but it needs time to do it.”
Pakistan’s US ambassador, Hussain Haqqani, said “the government took every possible step for (her) safe release,” adding that efforts will continue.
Pakistan’s Jamiat Uleme-e-Islam Party (JUI) chief, Fazalur Rehman, cancelled his US trip in protest, saying “the punishment of Doctor Aafia has added to the list of American crimes, and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif said he, too, “would make all efforts for Dr. Aafia’s release,” adding that “the entire nation was praying for her safe return.”
Tekreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Party chairman, Imran Khan, condemned the verdict as “unethical and inhuman,” warning it could inflame the entire Muslim world. He also announced launch of a countrywide protest, saying Pakistanis won’t tolerate this outrage.
“Aafia is the daughter of the nation,” he said, “and all-our efforts should be made for her early return.” PTI plans protest rallies, seminars and meeting throughout the country, its campaign to continue until Affia’s back home.
Farooq Sattar, Parliamentary leader of Pakistan’s third largest political party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), condemned Aafia’s sentence, announced protests, and said MQM officials would meet with America’s ambassador to demand her release. MQM head, Altaf Hussain, also wants her released and sent home, saying, if in power, MQM “would have immediately severed ties with the US and its allies….”
In America, Aafia’s a “terrorist,” in Pakistan a national hero, at least on the country’s streets, if not the halls of power, despite the above rhetoric.
For their part, Aafia’s family vowed to launch a “movement” for her release, Fauzia telling reporters that all of Pakistan would agitate for her. “I was alone when I started the campaign to release my sister, but from now on it will be the Aafia movement as the whole nation is with me.”
Qazi Muhammad, Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president asked “Why is our individual and collective conscience as a nation silent on the maltreatment of Dr. Aafia, the daughter of the nation?” He said an SCBA delegation would meet with her family, and offered to defend her in the US pro bono.
Responses from Human Rights Groups
The International Justice Network (ICN – supporting human rights globally, including Aafia’s family) issued a press release, saying:
“Dr. Aafia Siddiqui – who has never caused harm to anyone – has now been condemned to spend the rest of her life in a (US) maximum security prison….This sentence is not only unjust because of its harshness, (but) also because of its impact on her….children….who may never see their mother again. But the greatest injustice….is that those who are responsible for the kidnapping, disappearance, and abuse of Dr. Siddiqui and her children without cause have yet to answer for their actions.”
“The International Justice Network stands in solidarity with the international community in condemning this unfair and unjust result in Dr. Siddiqui’s case.”
Dr. Mehdi Hasan, chairperson of The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) issued the following statement:
America must “assess the impact of the unusually harsh punishment awarded to (Aafia), particularly in view of the absence of direct and credible evidence against her.”
In fact, there’s none.
It’s also a red herring for the US embassy to say Pakistan must sign two international treaties relating to prisoner exchanges before Aafia can be returned – the Council of Europe Treaty and OAF Convention. In fact, reversing her sentence and repatriating her is as simple as doing it, an Obama stroke of the pen sending her home. It’s time for Pakistan’s government to put its muscle where it’s rhetoric is and demand nothing less, suspending diplomatic relations until done.
A Final Comment
On September 11, 2001, America declared “war on terror” based on a lie, then used it as justification to rampage globally. Thereafter, democratic freedoms weakened or disappeared, and Muslims became the target of choice. A war on Islam followed.
Stereotypically called culturally inferior, dirty, lecherous, untrustworthy, religiously fanatical, and violent, they’ve been prejudicially called Islamofascists, “terrorists,” or a homeland fifth column. Their fate became summary judgment – no due process, judicial fairness, or innocent unless proved guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt by an impartial jury of their peers.
Aafia is their poster child, an innocent woman brutalized and condemned to spend the rest of her life in maximum security confinement, meant for America’s “worst of the worst” criminals. The facilities are extremely harsh. They crush the human spirit, body and mind, in Aafia’s case even more than already after seven and a half brutalizing years.
More is now planned for the rest of her life unless world outrage saves her, no easy task given the Obama administration’s contempt for the rule of law, human rights and justice, as roguish as Bush officials.
That alone should incite everyone’s moral outrage. Aafia’s case adds an exclamation point!
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.