Last Week in the Aafia Siddiqui Trial
By: ondelette FIREDOGLAKE Monday January 25, 2010 9:43 am
The trial of Aafia Siddiqui began on Tuesday last week at the federal court of the Southern District of New York at 500 Pearl Street in Manhattan. Surprisingly, the turnout of spectators, protesters, and journalists was large enough that two other courtrooms needed to be opened up with closed-circuit TV feed. I was at a conference last week, so I am writing this in arrears, but Petra Bartosiewicz, the freelance reporter who produced a great piece on Ms. Siddiqui late last year, has done two days of blog style reporting and a good piece in Time Magazine. They are well worth the read.
Opening remarks by the prosecution centered on the idea that evidence cannot be perfect in the middle of a war zone, and that Aafia Siddiqui is a dangerous person found with vials and cosmetics bottles and hand written notes and jump drives and whatever (by the side of a road in Ghazni, at the edge of, or not really in, the "war zone", in a burka, writing things on a tablet, with her son by her side), and yelled "by the blood of [indistinct] on your heads and hands" and picked up an M-4 rifle and tried to kill Americans, which apparently is against the law if they’re soldiers in a war zone. [Private guess: if she ever said anything at all like that to them, in any context, even bleeding and lying on the ground, never having grabbed anything or shot at anyone, then the indistinct word was 'Suleman'.]
Opening remarks by the defense, delivered by Charles Swift, were to the effect that they weren’t claiming she did it in self-defense, or that she did it without knowing what she was doing, or any other affirmative defense, they were claiming she never picked up the rifle, never tried to fire it, and the only gun leveled and fired that day was the 9mm pistol of the warrant officer who shot her with it, and that since there was absolutely no material evidence to the contrary, she is innocent of the charges.
Opening remarks by Aafia Siddiqui were that she was not there voluntarily and had ‘fired her defense’ many times already.
The prosecution started with Captain Snyder, the person whose head the gun was supposedly pointed at. He also, at prosecution request, read from the ‘handwritten notes’ (the electronic media on the jump drive has been banned from the trial since the prosecution cannot vouch for its whereabouts for several days and since the trial is not about terrorism, supposedly). Aafia Siddiqui objected that she never intended to bomb anything, and said, to the jury, "It’s not true. I was held in a secret prison, my children were tortured, I was told to copy a magazine…" according to one version (reporters seem to have had a hard time agreeing with each other about her remarks). She was taken out of the court room, but returned the next day.
The problems with the prosecution testimony were ably pursued by the defense on cross-examination all week (the prosecution has now presented all its witnesses). Captain Snyder says she was kneeling and had trouble figuring out the gun, Ahmad Gul, the interpreter who supposedly wrestled with her for the gun says she was standing and he pushed her against the wall. There were no fingerprints on the weapon, there were no bullets or casings of anything but a 9mm pistol in the room, the examination of much of the forensic evidence was conducted in part by the same team who were involved in the incident, the attempted murder weapon, the M-4 was apparently dismantled and some of the parts likely to produce fingerprints given to other soldiers who were apparently in dire need of spare M-4 parts, it took multiple hours before she was in surgery, she was flown to Bagram immediately after the surgery which was at 1am (the incident was in the afternoon), it took 20 days for the evidence to follow, in someone’s backpack, Linda Moreno established that the interpreter has been given all sorts of favors by immigration and is in email correspondence with the person who shot Ms. Siddiqui, and there’s no evidence the M-4 was fired that day at all, according to the FBI forensics specialist who examined the scene.
But there are other elements to the case that favor the prosecution. On Wednesday, the court security set up a second check point and metal detector right outside the courtroom itself (there is already a metal detector and security check at the entrance to the building) and began searching all the spectators as they came in, in full view of the jurors, and asking for their IDs and copying the information off them onto a list. Charles Swift complained to Judge Berman on Thursday that "The suggestion that the public gallery may be a threat is highly prejudicial". He complained again on Friday, and Judge Berman said he’d ‘look into it with the security people’, to which Mr. Swift retorted that the security people say it was ordered by the judge. Personally? I don’t have much confidence that it will be stopped, the judge has been ‘looking into’ the strip searches Ms. Siddiqui must endure to come to court or meet with attorneys for about a year and a half and they haven’t stopped, he apparently looks into things for a very, very long time.
This week, the defense will present its case and call its witnesses.
I do want to note a couple of things: The constant outbursts from Aafia Siddiqui complaining that she isn’t being allowed to speak may seem to those just tuning in for the trial to be very out of line, as the defense hasn’t started it’s case yet and so forth. You have to look at the history of the case. Judge Berman explicitly wrote into his opinion of July 29, 2009 on her competency to stand trial that the defendant has the right to speak in her defense at a competency hearing, but he also explicitly forbade her from doing so. So she has been waiting a long time, and has previously had the right to speak but has been denied that right. Secondly, the case is not a terrorism case on its face, it’s an attempted murder case, so the prosecution is supposed to be banned from trying to make it about her and about al Qaeda. But they were allowed to read from the handwritten notes to ‘establish the context’ for the shooting. Right.
And, for the same reason, the defense is not allowed to talk about her disappearance and possible torture, that’s why her outburst resulted in her being taken out of the courtroom. The U.S. contends that she was in Karachi in hiding the whole time and can prove it: They have statements taken from her during the two weeks after she was shot, when she was in a four-point restraint bed in Bagram, with 24/7 lights and cameras, being interrogated by the FBI. She was apprehended in Ghazni with her son, Ahmed. At the time she was interrogated (July 17 – August 3, 2008), and indeed until October 2008, she did not know what they had done with her son. She claims that her torture included showing her pictures of her younger son, Suleman, lying in a pool of blood, and she has no idea where her daughter is (the U.S., following her ex-husband Amjid Khan, claims all the children are in Karachi). Those statements, thus, taken in extreme duress, recovering from major surgery in four-point restraint while your interrogators have your children and are of those who shot you, which "prove" she was not tortured, were used in her competency proceedings to convince the psychiatrist who was in charge of examining her at Carswell, TX, that she was "malingering" — or feigning symptoms.
For any more about her disappearance and torture, the information will not come from the trial underway in Manhattan, but from the trial looming in Islamabad. There the Pakistani Senate appointed a committee, back when the Lawyer’s Movement succeeded in restoring the Supreme Court, and that court invalidated all judgments made by the Islamabad High Court during the period since the suspension of the Constitution in November 2007, to review all of that court’s decisions and decide which to reinstate, which to retry, and which to dismiss. They are also tasked with investigating the Musharraf administration’s abrogations of justice and handing down charges to be prosecuted.
It is very likely that they will shortly recommend that Pervez Musharraf, and former Inspector General Sindh Kamal Shah be put on trial for the kidnapping and illegal rendering of Aafia Siddiqui and her three children to the Americans for torture. They have appointed an Special Police Investigating Officer, Shahid Qureshi following the filing of charges with the Gulshan Iqbal police (the station with jurisdiction where she was allegedly kidnapped), who is late with his report and has been ordered by the court to produce it.
It is important to understand that the question of whether or not she was apprehended and tortured cannot be conclusively solved on what people can gather right now, which is probably why the U.S. can continue to assert that there was no such disappearance. Petra Bartosiewicz left the question unanswered in her piece last year, very much left the question open. But there is this one thing that I think is the most important development so far on that score:
Police record statement of Dr Aafia’s son
KARACHI: Police recorded the statement of Dr Aafia’s son on Monday, according to a report.
Muhammad Ahmed, son of Dr Aafia Siddiqui – a Pakistani scientist detained in America – told the police that he, his mother and siblings – Mariam and Yousuf – were on their way to the Karachi Airport on March 30, 2003 when plainclothesmen intercepted their taxi in Gulshan-e-Iqbal and took her into custody.
Investigations SP Niaz Khuso said Ahmed stated that he was taken in a separate vehicle and the officials had rendered him unconscious, and when he regained consciousness, he found himself in Juvenile Jail Kabul, Afghanistan.
Ahmed said the Red Cross, a human rights organisation, had contacted him in 2008 for the first time. Khuso said Ahmed could speak English and Darri languages that he had learnt in Kabul. staff report
(my bold of final sentence).
It’s one thing to have a he-said-she-said between the family, the ex, the Pakistani and American officials, the supporters, the woman herself, and even her child. It’s quite another for the U.S. to continue to assert that she was in Karachi the whole time with her children when it turns up that one of them has acquired fluency in a language spoken in Central and Western Afghanistan, not in Karachi.
She may or may not be convicted in New York, in a trial that will never be perceived as fair in her home country if only because of the strip searches are evidence to Pakistanis of her continued torture by the U.S. government. And the terror-fear machine is cranked to high heaven around the trial, with Glenn Sulmasy asserting in NRO that this is why we need a new court system for terrorists, and with people flogging Attorney General Holder for deciding to try them in our courts (he had nothing to do with the decision to try Aafia Siddiqui in New York, or the decision to illegally render her there).
But in Pakistan, it will be the trial of her captors for kidnapping her that will likely produce the truth at long last.
Find original posting and responses to “Last Week in the Aafia Siddiqui Trial”
Below are a few select comments from article above:
What struck me the most was that Musharraf and Gen. Shah could be put on trial for what happened to Aafia. If that happens, will our M$M still ignore trying to find the truth on the terrible things that have happened to this mother and highly educated woman? It’s good to know that Time carried an article, but it was mostly about mistreatment of the media rather than the torture and terrible treatment of Aafia, Thanks for continuing to keep us informed on this case. Many readers here may not be aware that it was in 2007, or was it earlier, that you started telling us about her.
Jeff Kaye January 25th, 2010 at 11:05 am 4
Wow, great reporting, and a great catch on the Ahmed/Darri point! I haven’t looked yet at your other links, but will. Thanks so much for bringing this all together here.
ondelette January 25th, 2010 at 11:20 am 5
In response to RMPatriot @ 3
July of 2008 was when I first started studying the case. We were keeping up with the Lawyer’s Movement and the Pakistani elections and the defeat of Pervez Musharraf (and the murder of Benazir Bhutto, suspension of the Constitution, and getting the letter to the ICC on torture) if you remember. My search terms picked up the threads of talk of the Grey Lady of Bagram, Prisoner 650 in July, coming from Yvonne Ridley and Imran Khan. Then suddenly she was arrested and shot in Ghazni and by August, rendered to Brooklyn.
Even though last week went pretty badly for the prosecution, it isn’t at all clear she will prevail in court. And if she does? Public opinion is that she’s “Lady al Qaeda”. Public opinion right now is that someone who is “Lady al Qaeda”***(see my note below -Connie) shouldn’t be allowed to walk even if innocent. Still less if she slurs Jews, is rude in court, and wears her headscarf like a burka during her trial.
She really is not really all there, it seems, but what would the alternative have been? If she’d been declared unfit to stand trial, it would not have provoked an investigation into her torture, it would have just meant she stayed in Carswell until such time as she was “fit”, and, as she rightly “outbursted” during those hearings, she’d have been placed on anti-psychotics and totally submerged. So she’s damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. Her contention that one meeting with President Obama would end the war on terror is not a good testimony to her sanity, unless what she intends to do is impress on him what 5 years of torture can do, and demand of him that he consider Mariam Siddiqui the equal of his own two daughters. But I don’t think she has the presence of mind to do any such thing, even if it were taken seriously and not as the lunacy of a terrorist*** trying to use her trial as a propaganda soapbox, as she is portrayed by the American Right. She herself says she feels “senile”. At 37 years old, with a Ph.D. from Brandeis and an academic record showing she never got below an A-minus is “senile”. What a waste.
I just found this article and the comments very late so will revisit. Yet on a quick skim of the comments - I'd like to remind readers that when we refer to Dr. Aafia as a terrorist or link her name to terms like Lady al Qaeda we may contribute to such an image inadvertently by not being very clear. Many of us still have to get it in our minds that she was NOT charged as a terrorist.
CONNIE blogger here at One Heart For Peace
The things that are considered “justice” in this country make me ill to contemplate.
ondelette January 25th, 2010 at 12:52 pm 7
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 4
For me, this fluency in Dari pretty much nails it. I was pulling back a bit on all the chronologies and accusations after Petra Bartosiewicz pointed out in November that Moazzam Begg could not have heard or seen her in Bagram as he said, because there would not have been any overlap of their time there. But this one can’t be reconciled with Amjid Khan or the FBI’s version of events, because both put the boy in Karachi the whole time. It also makes it impossible that they spent their entire time in custody of the Pakistanis. They were rendered to Afghanistan when they disappeared. Period.
It also makes mincemeat of the notion that because the FBI employs rapport building that none of their practices rise to the level of CIDT or even torture, not to mention illegal rendering. President Karzai personally intervened in this when it happened in Ghazni to try to ensure legal treatment of the prisoner, and she was rendered anyway.
Mary January 25th, 2010 at 3:11 pm 9
For those who haven’t clicked through, Petra’s pieces are very good.
In day 1, she provides info that in Swift’s opening statement he:
…told the jury the defense would present the testimony of Abdul Qadeer, a detective with the Afghan police, who interviewed Siddiqui after she was brought to the police station. Qadeer questioned Siddiqui, and also apparently admitted to beating her with a cane. But Qadeer was also present when the U.S. team arrived to question Siddiqui, and says he saw a very different scene unfold than what the government alleges. He said he saw the U.S. warrant officer, “walk to the curtain and behind the curtain. What he heard was a struggle and then shots fired. He didn’t see the defendant get a rifle. He saw the rifle near the wall and says he didn’t see the defendant anywhere near it.” Swift also said the defense would prove that while there was ample forensic evidence that Siddiqui was shot (including shell casings, her blood on the carpet, bullet holes in the wall behind her), there was no forensic evidence that Siddiqui fired any shots herself or ever touched the rifle.
She recounts how, while supposedly no one knew who Siddiqui was when the Afghan police picked her up, when Col Snyder wanted to take her the Gov of Ghazni Province said he had been called by President Karzai and told not to turn her over to the Americans. According to the Col, after she was shot Siddiqui begged to be killed rather than taken away by them. But while Snyder says that after the shooting, he carried her down the stairs bc they were too narrow to get a stretcher up, the next day of testimony has the FBI agent explaining that there was a delay after she was shot while someone went and got a stretcher and she was carried down the steps on the stretcher. [I can understand fuzz and variations on details - did you hear the shout right after or right before the gunshot- kinds of things that can blur pretty easily, but these are odd variations)
Interestingly, Sndyer says he refused to sign off on a recommendation for a Silver Star for the warrant officer who supposedly "saved" him by shooting Siddiqui - since Snyder said thought the warrant officer was partly at fault for leaving a weapon where Siddiqui could get to it - some undercurrents there.
[Not that I'm a cynic, *g*, but there is a lot about how much the US wanted to take her and how much the Afghans did not want them to take her, and when they went up, they were NOT going to be allowed to take her - but after they shot her, she pretty much "had" to be taken by them to the military base. Just kind of interesting how that turned out. Direct orders from the President of Afghanistan that she not be turned over to the US, that they only get to question her, and yet the day ends with her being secured by the US in their custody ]
IN any event, thanks again Ondelette, for the coverage on the Pakistani review as well.
bluebutterfly January 25th, 2010 at 3:32 pm 10
All her posts are here, also. The complete story of Aafia is at this site for those who are new to her case.
Laura Doty January 25th, 2010 at 3:49 pm 11
Thank you so much Ondelette. Here’s hoping the truth outs soonest. That Ahmed can speak Dari speaks volumes. I hope, too, that those who know will soon be called to account for Ahmed’s younger, missing siblings. This case is a national shame, only made worse by our ongoing, national indifference to it.
The pretrial hearing was illuminating in itself after the prosecution ..
* ADMITTED Dr. Aafia is NOT a member of al-Qaida
* REVEALED she has NO links to any terrorist organization
* STATED there were NO fingerprints on the gun she was supposed to have wrested from one of the soldiers.
* CONCEDED NO bullets were recovered from the cell
The defence complained that the prosecution had still not turned over the list of witnesses they intend to call so defence lawyers have no idea who those witnesses are.
It had previously been agreed that the legal team representing Dr. Aafia would get those names at least 1 week before the start of trial.
Dr. Aafia’s lawyers requested once again that she be spared the strip searches and have a video link. The judge said he wanted now for her to have the right to confront her accuser so she must be forced to court.
It should be noted that the defense made the argument that if Aafia’s ability to face her accusers is so paramount, why is this not applied to the “evidence” when those who accuse her of having this evidence are not being brought to court and so she has no right to confront them? However she still must be strip searched and brought to trial against her will for the sake of this same right.”
January 25th, 2010 at 6:13 pm 13
Once again, we must rely on a foreign court to expose American crimes. That’s our last hope, isn’t it? Not to sound cheesy, but what a great movie this would make. (Again, a movie made elsewhere, natch…)
ondelette January 25th, 2010 at 6:23 pm 14
In response to bluebutterfly @ 12
I did wonder about the prosecution witness list. We were told in reports last week that the prosecution would present 5 witnesses. The 5 have come and gone last week, and they are still presenting them this week. I have problems with the warrant officer, who is so critical to what happened in the room, given that it was supposedly he who put his weapon down and lost it, he who previously cleared the room as safe, and he who supposedly shot Ms. Siddiqui, he gets on the stand without his name, delivers a sobbing account not of what happened on July 17th 2008, but instead what happened later when he was wounded. She gets booted from the trial for saying she feels sorry for him, she who the Judge keeps noting is the only one in the room with a right to be there. Late news coming in today says she had a further outburst, she said the captain shot her not the warrant officer. Since the defense accosted René Card, the medic with her report from the time of the incident with saying that the Captain would get “fried” if they found out his gun was missing, but that nothing would happen to the warrant officer, what the hell is going on, and went on in that room, and why is all the prosecution testimony at odds with itself?
bystander January 25th, 2010 at 7:12 pm 15
Superb accounting, enhanced by thoughtful comments.
What a nightmare this woman has endured.
Jim White January 26th, 2010 at 4:14 am 16
Thanks for following this, ondelette. If we can’t have live-blogging from someone on-site, I can think of no person better suited for gathering and analyzing all available information. It certainly is puzzling why the prosecution would put on such a poor case.
bluebutterfly January 26th, 2010 at 11:33 am 17
The prosecution is at odds because of lies, lies, and more lies.
“Trial Update from Jan 25, 2010
Tuesday, 26 January 2010 11:33
The female medic who was present and treated Aafia after the shooting incident took the stand. Her testimony directly contradicted that of prior witnesses who placed the M4 rifle and relevant witnesses at differing locations at the scene. Next, the US Warrant Officer who shot Aafia took the stand — but was unable to explain statements he gave to the FBI regarding the incident which significantly differed from his testimony at trial. To date, no two prosecution witnesses have provided a consistent account of the shooting incident.”
“REAL ISSUES FOR DECENT AMERICANS TO CARE ABOUT
This woman and her three children were kidnapped, and illegally held for 5 years under the most brutal conditions imaginable without any legal reason. She had been accused of no crime. After years of imprisonment, rape and torture, she is finally arrested for attacking those who tortured her.
REALITY CHECK: TIME TO STAND PROUD IN OUR WAR ON TERROR
After 5 years of imprisonment, Dr. Siddiqui was a total physical wreck, barely able to walk, and seriously disabled from hundreds of torture sessions. Yet she is accused of overpowering several Navy Seals and US Army Special Forces unarmed combat specialists, seizing a weapon and nearly killing all of them, this at a weight of 100 pounds.
“Nearly killing” is a bit of an overstatement. In fact, nobody was injured at all. The more we investigate this, the more this sounds like an outlandish war story cooked up to file for PTSD.
She faces 20 years for this crime and only this crime. Since when was it a crime to attempt to escape from illegal imprisonment? Any American who is illegally detained and imprisoned without due process can’t be charged with a crime for resisting torture or imprisonment.
Americans consider such actions their patriotic duty.”
bluebutterfly January 26th, 2010 at 11:38 am 18
“An FBI firearms expert has expressed doubts whether the M-4 rifle, which was allegedly grabbed by Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui to attack U.S. interrogators in Afghanistan, was ever fired at the crime scene.Carlo Rosati, the expert who testified in a federal court Friday, said he had thoroughly examined the weapon, the curtain from a room of Ghazni police station where the shooting incident took place and the debris of its wall where two bullets reportedly hit, but found no evidence that gunshots leave behind.
None of them were hit. Pointedly asked by Charles Swift, the lead defence lawyer, if he was certain the M-4 rifle was ever fired at the crime scene, he said he could not say that with absolute certainty. An FBI forensic expert has already confirmed he found no fingerprints of Ms. Siddiqui on the M-4 rifle when the weapon was produced in the court Thursday. In his testimony on Friday, the fourth day of Dr. Siddiqui’s trial, Rosati, the firearms expert, said there was no gunshot residue on the curtain behind which Ms. Siddiqui was stated to be sitting, nor he found any projectiles or fragments from the part of the bullet-hit wall built with stones and hard mud.”
bluebutterfly January 26th, 2010 at 11:41 am 19
Freedom of the press American style.
“In the overflow room this week I met journalists from Pakistan with United Nations and U.S. State Department issued press credentials. They work for some of the biggest outlets in their countries, including BBC Urdu, the Associated Press in Pakistan, Jang, Dawn, Geo and Haj TV. None were issued credentials for the trial, though some had applied weeks ago. We watched the proceedings on a flat screen television. The view didn’t include any of the exhibits being offered into evidence, among them multiple diagrams of the scene of the shooting and incriminating documents allegedly written by Siddiqui. At one point a key government eyewitness stepped off the witness stand and out of range of both the camera and microphone to use a visual aid to demonstrate where he was during the shooting. He was permitted to give much of his testimony off camera.”
bluebutterfly January 26th, 2010 at 11:51 am 20
He spoke at a rally for Aafia. He died the next day..Dec 10/09.
“Last public statements of Najeeb Ahmed, one of Pakistan’s eminent investigative journalists and former President Press Club Karachi.
“When Dr Aafia Siddiqui was picked up by FBI and Pakistan Army, this was reported (in 2003) in many newspapers and I was among them who reported this news and this is reality that our forces arrested Dr Aafia and handed (her)over to FBI, and as per my investigations and information I was able to get, she was interrogated here first in Army cells and then she was shifted to Afghanistan. After many years, when this secret was disclosed, she has been transferred from Afghanistan to USA on the basis of false accusation””
bluebutterfly January 26th, 2010 at 12:15 pm 21
Daily News in New York used ‘Lady Al Qaeda’ in their headline. Who needs truth when lies crab more readers, I guess. This reads like a bad soap opera.
“Two jurors were released from the tumultuous trial of the so-called “Lady Al Qaeda” on Monday, and the defendant was thrown out of the courtroom again – twice.
Sources said the jurors saw a man in the audience motion as if he were firing a gun at them and mouth an obscenity.
“They felt they would no longer be fair,” said Federal Judge Richard Berman, who spoke to the jurors in private.
In a transcript released Monday night, one juror told the judge he was “really freaked out” by the man “pointing in a gun gesture.”
A second juror said he would have trouble keeping an open mind “anytime anyone makes what I view as a death threat.”
The spectator was questioned and then released.”
“Some experts believe Siddiqui is much more than that.
“She is the most significant capture in five years,” former CIA agent John Kiriakou told ABC News. “To find someone who has such rich information, computer hard drives, e-mails, that is really a major capture.”"
Read more: here
He is now known to be a liar.
“As it turns out, retired CIA agent John Kiriakou has an active imagination, basically.
According to a piece by veteran intelligence reporter Jeff Stein, Kiriakou “basically made up” details about the waterboarding of al Qaeda agent Abu Zubaydah.”