US Frame-up of Aafia Siddiqui Begins to Unravel
victim of rendition and torture
By Ali Ismail
February 01, 2010 "WSWS" -- Pakistani neuroscientist
Aafia Siddiqui went on trial in a federal courtroom in
New York City on January 19, charged with the attempted
murder of US personnel in Afghanistans Ghazni
Province in 2008. The case against Dr. Siddiqui, 37, is
rapidly unraveling due to lack of evidence and discordant
testimony from witnesses.
It is becoming increasingly evident that the charges
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 militarys notorious
Bagram prison in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2008 where
they were subjected to torture. Two of Dr. Siddiquis
younger children are still missing.
According to the account given by US authorities, Aafia
Siddiqui 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.
Despite these claims, Siddiqui is not charged with any
terror-related offenses. Instead, she is indicted for
allegedly having seized an automatic weapon and fired on
her Afghan and American captors when a group of FBI
agents and US Army officers arrived to collect her. The
most serious charge against her is using a firearm in
committing a felony, the gun in question being a US
Siddiqui was shot twice in the stomach and barely
survived after medics at Bagram air field had to make an
incision from her breastbone to her bellybutton to remove
the bullets. It was reported that part of her intestines
had to be removed to save her life.
The accusations against Siddiqui strain credulity and
have been fervently denied by her relatives, her defense
attorneys, and human rights organizations, all of whom
claim that she had been held in secret US detention
facilities where she was physically and sexually abused
ever since she disappeared off the streets of Karachi in
the spring of 2003 with her three children, then seven,
five, and six months old.
According to the German weekly, Der Spiegel, just a few
days before she disappeared, Affia Siddiqui had contacted
her former professor, Robert Sekuler, at Brandeis
University in search of a job, complaining that there
werent any job opportunities in Pakistan for a
woman of her educational background.
Dr. Siddiqui is a Pakistani national who was educated at
Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brandeis
University. In July of 2001, she and her husband at the
time were scrutinized by the FBI for their alleged
association with Islamic charities. Following the events
of September 11, 2001 the couple returned to Pakistan at
a time when hundreds of Pakistanis and other Muslims were
rounded up for questioning across the US. The family
resided in Karachi where Aafia Siddiqui was employed at
Aga Khan University.
According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan,
Aafia Siddiqui and her children were kidnapped by
Pakistani intelligence agents on their way to the airport
in Karachi. Their whereabouts remained unknown until
Aafia Siddiqui and her eldest son, Ahmed, were reported
detained in Afghanistan in July of 2008, several years
after their disappearance. While the Pakistani Interior
Ministry had initially confirmed that the abduction had
taken place, it later claimed to have been mistaken and
stated that Siddiqui was not in Pakistani custody. This
about-face was an attempt to conceal the complicity of
Pakistani intelligence services in the US governments
rendition of Siddiqui to Afghanistan and her subsequent
Aafia Siddiquis sister, Dr. Fauzia Siddiqui, had
informed the press that she and her mother had journeyed
to the US in 2003 to meet with FBI officials, who had
claimed that Aafia Siddiqui would soon be released. In
Pakistan, Siddiquis family was repeatedly harassed
and received numerous death threats from sinister forces
within the Pakistani ruling elite. The family was ordered
not to make any public appeals in support of Aafia and
her three children.
Between 2003 and 2008, when Siddiquis whereabouts
were still unknown, the US claimed she was working on
behalf of Al Qaeda. In May of 2004, she was listed by US
officials as one of the seven most wanted Al
Qaeda fugitives. The US has also spuriously claimed that
she is married to Ammar al-Baluchi, who is reported to be
the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the so-called
mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks. The claim
that Siddiqui was married to al-Baluchi was based solely
on coerced statements made by Mohammed, who has been
The US military and the FBI have consistently denied that
Siddiqui had been in US custody prior to her arrest in
2008. In reality, Aafia Siddiqui spent the years between
2003 and 2008 at the detention facility at Bagram air
base, where many referred to her as the Grey Lady
Around the same time as her staged arrest, the British
journalist, Yvonne Ridley, had been bringing attention to
an unknown female detainee in Bagram prison who was known
as Prisoner No. 650. In his book, Enemy Combatant,
Moazzam Begg recalled hearing the womans piercing
screams as she was being tortured while he was imprisoned
in the same facility. According to Ridley, in 2005 male
prisoners at the facility were so disturbed by her
screams and sobs that they staged a hunger strike that
lasted for six days.
When she was arrested in 2008, her then 11 year-old son
Ahmed, a US citizen, was by her side. The traumatized boy
has since been repatriated to Pakistan, where he is now
living with his aunt, Dr. Fawzia Siddiqui. According to
his aunt, Pakistani authorities have forbidden Ahmed from
speaking to the news media.
Siddiquis appearance has changed markedly since
2002, according to her lawyers. She has suffered a broken
nose, is deathly pale, and extremely frail, weighing
about 100 pounds. When she arrived in the US, she was
suffering from acute trauma, according to her lawyers who
were outraged that she did not immediately receive the
urgent medical attention. Siddiqui had been suffering
from agonizing pain from the wounds she had sustained in
Afghanistan and was slumped over in her wheelchair when
she arrived in court in August of 2008.
Her trial was delayed as her lawyers argued that she was
mentally unfit to participate in her own defense. However,
prosecutors eventually found mental health experts to
allege that she was faking her condition to escape
punishment. Judge Richard Berman ruled that she was
mentally fit for trial.
The paucity of media attention given to the trial is
noteworthy, particularly given that Siddiqui was listed
as a top Al Qaeda suspect. The tabloid press in New York
City, where the proceedings have received limited
attention, press has taken her guilt for granted,
cynically dubbing her Lady Al Qaeda. The
trial is being closely watched in Pakistan, where
Siddiquis ordeal has outraged many and has sparked
protests around the country.
From its beginning, the trial has been marked by
questionable irregularities, and the judge has gone out
of his way to accommodate the prosecutors. Not a single
Pakistani journalist was granted press credentials for
the opening statements last Tuesday. Defense attorneys
protested the robust security measures put in place
during the trial, which obviously reinforces the notion
that Siddiqui poses a security threat to the US.
In a clear violation of her rights, Judge Berman has
repeatedly thrown Siddiqui out of the courtroom for what
he called her outbursts. The outbursts,
were Siddiquis anguished claims of innocence and
protests that she was tortured.
Since Ill never get a chance to speak,
she had told the court. If you were in a secret
prison, or your children were tortured
Give me a
little credit, this is not a list of targets of New York.
I was never planning to bomb it. Youre lying.
The trial has also been marked by contradictory testimony
from prosecution witnesses, which has undermined the case
On the third day of the trial, Assistant US Attorney
Jenna Dabbs displayed several photographs of the room
where the prosecution claims the shooting occurred.
However, Carlo Rosatti, an FBI firearms expert who
investigated the case, acknowledged last Friday that he
had found no shell casings, no bullets, no bullet
fragments, no evidence the gun [the soldiers M-4
rifle] was fired. The only shell casing from the
scene was from a 9-milllimeter pistol with which Siddiqui
was shot. On the fourth day of the trial, another FBI
agent testified that the FBI never found Aafia Siddiquis
fingerprints on the M-4 rifle.
The warrant officer who shot Siddiqui also took the stand,
recounting the version of events laid out by the
prosecution. He claimed that on the day he and his
colleagues went to collect Siddiqui, she suddenly got a
hold of his rifle and aimed it at US personnel, at which
point he opened fire with his 9-millimeter pistol.
When Siddiqui yelled out, I never shot it,
she was tossed out of the courtroom for the remainder of
The unnamed warrant officer, who had hobbled to the stand
using a cane, was also permitted to recount how he was
wounded in a recent and totally unrelated roadside
bombing in Afghanistan, shedding tears as he did so.
While having absolutely no relevance to the trial, the
soldiers wounds were invoked as part of a brazen
attempt by prosecutors to sway the jury. Judge Bermans
allowing the testimony demonstrates the rigged character
of the trial.
Sensing that Siddiqui was indeed emotionally unstable,
prosecutors moved to force her to testify in the hopes
that she would incriminate herself. Defense attorneys
argued that she wasnt mentally fit to take the
stand. Once again, Judge Berman sided with the
Berman warned Aafia Siddiqui that she is not permitted to
speak about events prior to her arrest in July of 2008.
Nevertheless, on Thursday Siddiqui repeatedly told the
jury that she was held in secret prisons by US
authorities, according to the Associated Press of
Pakistan. She told the jury how she was shot just after
she peeked through a curtain in search of an escape route.
She added that it would be ludicrous to believe that a
soldier would leave his gun where an allegedly dangerous
suspect could get a hold of it.
Its too crazy, she said. Its
just ridiculous. I didnt do that.
When asked by a US Attorney about the contents of her
purse which allegedly contained chemicals, bomb-making
instructions, and a list of US targets, Siddiqui said,
I cant testify to that, the bag was not mine,
so I didnt necessarily go through everything.
Siddiquis lawyers have claimed the bag and its
contents were planted evidence. Her attorney, Elaine
Whitfield Sharp, said back in 2008 that Siddiqui had been
carrying what amounted to conveniently
Of course they found all this stuff on her. It was
planted on her. She is the ultimate victim of the
American dark side, another one of her attorneys
had told the Associated Press in 2008.
Siddiqui also told the jury that her children were
constantly on her mind and that she was disoriented at
the time of her arrest in 2008.
On Friday, the prosecution called Gary Woodworth of
Braintree Rifle and Pistol Club in Massachusetts to
testify. Woodworth claimed that Siddiqui had taken a 12-hour
pistol course at some point in the early 1990s. The
Associated Press of Pakistan reported that Woodworth was
noticeably distressed when the defense team demanded to
know how it was possible for him to recall a specific
individual from two decades earlier, when hed had
hundreds of students. Woodworth admitted that he had no
records or documentation to back up his assertions,
insisting that he was good at remembering faces.
Also on Friday, FBI Special Agent Bruce Kamerman
testified that Siddiqui grabbed the assault rifle in a
fit of rage. However, he appeared to be flustered when
one of Siddiquis attorneys produced his hand-written
notes in which there was no mention of her grabbing the
In spite of the obviously fabricated character of the
prosecutions case, there is no guarantee of an
Even if she is found not guilty, the fate of Aafias
Siddiquis other two children, Mariam and Suleman,
remains unknown. Siddiqui recounts that, while she was
held in solitary confinement for five years, she was
endlessly forced to listen to recordings of her screaming,
terrified children. Her baby, Suleman, she said, was
taken away from her immediately, never to be seen again.
She said her daughter Mariam was occasionally shown to
her, but only as an obscure figure behind a sheet of
The horrifying case of Aafia Siddiqui and her three
children is but one example of the criminal and inhuman
practices of US imperialism and its ally, the Pakistani
bourgeoisie. Hundreds if not thousands of Pakistanis have
been kidnapped by Pakistani intelligence services and
handed over to US personnel to be dispatched to Bagram,
Guantanamo and other black site torture
chambers around the globe. While the Pakistani government
now claims to be doing everything in its power to bring
Siddiqui back to Pakistan, its supposed efforts are
little more than damage control.
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