First report on the sentencing: from a reporter "Leaving federal court where Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was sentenced to 86 yrs in prison. She begged supporters NOT to commit violence in her name."
Dr. Aafia's brother says below in this transcript:
"And we have to challenge EACH conviction. If the stakes are raised, there has to be a response:
'It has to be legal
'It has to be intelligent
'It has to be honorable
'And it has to be done with a dignity that I think - especially for Muslims - that that is the true legacy of our faith."
And certainly that should be the case for all of us...but we can't be silent nor should we give up on Dr. Aafia's situation.
Transcribed from an Audio Recorded several months after the January trial 2010 - Find URL to Audio end of this post
I want to thank everyone who's listening in and who is watching on the net for taking the time and the interest to try to understand the information about this case.
The title "Fact vs Fiction" is appropriate as this case has gone on for us for over seven years now and it is amazing how much fiction there is out there. There's so much about Aafia out there and sadly so much of it is wrong to the point of total fabrication on occasion. And worse, most of it is negative.
Now it's impossible to clarify years of misinformation in just a few minutes...but...it's probably instructive to focus from the point of the trial which just concluded in New York in February.
Even in that trial, it was limited to a very specific event without putting any context to the background. So I'll put a little bit of that out here for people:
Aafia and her three children disappeared or were disappeared from Karachi in March of 2003...For five years they were totally missing. Now these children were very young. The youngest was only 6 months old at the time. It is amazing how many people will write about this case and profess to have knowledge of this case - but are simply unaware of even these basic facts.
There have been, over the course of the years many documented witnessed accounts of torture and abuse that has been perpetrated ...in the "war on terror"...
"We know from Aafia's own testimony own case that her own children were used for coercion. Again this is something that many are not aware of...
Even one of the court officers supposedly preparing a biography on Aafia was unaware of this background. It is important because this is why fiction can take hold -- because without basic facts or basic understanding on background - in the absence of that - many things can be interjected mid-stream -- and that's what we saw happening in the court in New York.
I sat through the whole trial: the pre-trial; jury selection; and the hearings as well. And being a witness to that trial, all I can say is I wish many of you who are interested in the case could have been there or as future cases come - make an effort to understand the whole process -- because only then can you see how charges are framed and how a trial is conducted.
What I witnessed was that a virtually non-existent and highly inconsistent prosecution case was able to win and it won over an extremely powerful defense case that demonstrated through factual and scientific evidence that Aafia was actually innocent of the charges leveled against her.
And yet the verdict was one of "guilty".
So how can this be?...Yes, I am her brother...But the answer really is in the process that I witnessed and the key was that there was a corruption of a very simple principle upon which our justice system here is based.
Actually this is a principle upon which any system justice must be based - and that is for justice to have a chance of being done - the process has to be without FEAR or FAVOR. Very simple but powerful words. But if we let either one of these enter into the process - the result by definition becomes unjust - and that was evident in Aafia's trial from the beginning as both fear and favor were interjected - from the beginning.
That's why it's important to be there when the judge frames what will be allowed into evidence and what will not. That creates what you would say is the framewith which the jury will view the case.
In this case her entire background the context of why she was picked up in Afghanistan, where she was for five years - all the issues about RENDITION, (coercive) use of children - ALL of that was kept outside the frame. It was not allowed into court - the jury would never hear of it...and when Aafia tried to interject that through outbursts, it only made her seem unreasonable.
And on top of that, there was in this trial...(the fact) that she was charged not with any act of terrorism or anything like that. In fact it was repeatedly mentioned that she was not charged or connected with any organization or charged with any act of terrorism. Yet innuendos of this were consistently interjected for the jury to keep in the back of their mind.
And so there is FEAR that gets injected in these cases.
There was an atmosphere of fear:
Fear of Aafia, this 90-pound "super-woman" whom three US soldiers could not contain even after shooting her.
There was in the courtroom the fear of Muslims in general - fear about security for the nation - and there was constant invocation of fear by reminding people about 911...and these are the things that the judge reiterated on a daily basis...and many other things...
I mention these things because anyone who was there - and this was a public trial - would know that these things occurred...when you inject fear you create an atmosphere where you make it difficult for people to make a fair and reasonable decision.
You know one interesting things that happened was that every day the judge would go to great lengths to say that Aafia was not charged with terrorism to the point that she herself objected. She said, if you don't want someone to look somewhere put a big sign that says 'Don't look here'...
The next thing was the element of FAVOR - that is of providing favor towards the prosecution. And this was done in many ways - and we've witnessed this in many trials. But in this specific trial, the major thing was allowing a lot of "hearsay evidence" (a term I learned in this trial) uniformed soldiers to talk about their suffering - and their tours of duty in Afghanistan that had no relation to the charges or the events related to the trial.
And yet the defense was not allowed to even bring legitimate issues of context such as Aafia's torture or the use of her children and things like that into court...
So what you had was a situation where one side got to bring in things not relevant yet the other side was judged in a different frame.
Now I mention some of these things about this trial because it is important for people to understand that when things are framed this way - what can happen is that when there's absolutely no evidence - no physical evidence - you can actually win a case...when things are framed this way what can happen when there's absolutely no evidence - absolutely no evidence - physical or scientific evidence - you can actually win a case because of witness accounts which may be totally contradictory and in this case they were. There were several eye witness accounts
and all of them were contradictory... there was the element of fear and the prosecution said so (in effect) that this is a dangerous person...and therefore we must convict...and the jury did...
So I guess one of the questions we come to -- and this is a BIG question that
if it's so hard to get justice and if the process is tainted - what can we do, what should we do? and in our case what will we do? If we can't win when all the evidence is on our side...then are people wasting their time, money and are events like this even worth participating in?
Or do we simply throw up our hands -- retreat in a corner, make secret dua's and wait for angels to come and help? You know, I don't know the answers -- but I do have some thoughts:
I don't think that depression and hopelessness are the answers. They don't serve any purpose, they are pointless, and they don't even provide any closure. They are realities that I think most families - who go through these situations - struggle with - - but, in a case like this, you have to bring determination that if you know the case is right and you know what is true and someone is innocent - then you have to challenge the conviction. And we have to challenge EACH conviction. If the stakes are raised, there has to be a response:
It has to be legal
It has to be intelligent
It has to be honorable
And it has to be done with a dignity that I think - especially for Muslims - that that is the true legacy of our faith.
I say this because I do believe that the basic foundations of the people are good
and the principles of justice are based on the ideals of fairness - but they have been - especially since the "war on terror" they have been severely, severely regressed. And we Muslim citizens and others have a duty to get these principles back into practice and liberate the system from the policies of fear and prejudice
And I quote Aafia again during the trial - she said - "We should not build cases on hate - but we should build them on facts."
...I do believe that sooner or later we will start to get reversals...(especially)
when there is little to know (of evidence for a case) - when that starts to happen, not just Muslims but all Americans and all people will be better for it.
So where do we go from here? The case of Aafia is awaiting sentencing...
Based on the charges that she was convicted of, there is a 30- year mandatory minimum sentence which would probably be enhanced to life. What can be done in the meantime to mitigate that is unclear (talking with the lawyers)...
No one was hurt in this incidence (scene of Aafia's charge) so this is something that people need to have a clear understanding of -- the intent in this case is probably to send multi-level messages.
After that (sentencing) she will begin to serve time and we have no idea where that will be...
But there are implications of/from this case for many of the other cases that are to follow. And people need to pay attention and follow these cases - in complete - in totality - because unless you do it in totality - you are not going to understand where the case actually was decided.
Aafia's case was decided in the early framing of the case. It was all over by the time it actually even got to trial and most (of these) cases tend to be that way...
Once you follow it - you know where the cases are set - and if there's proper reporting and documentation of that - hopefully people will then not have the confusion we run into over here...where you read things in newspapers which are only partial facts and that give rise to people creating fictions out of them. It is still amazing how many newspapers still carry the title that she was convicted of being 'an Al-Qaeda operative' when it's nowhere in fact...
What remains for people to do - in the case of Aafia - there is a strong series of appeals and there are a lot of other issues in this case that need to be pursued.
This is not just the case of a woman who was accused of something there are huge secondary issues related to this case about relationships between countries and other issues.
So public involvement - public awareness of ANY case that involves human rights abuses is critical - because if the public isn't involved it's very difficult for governments and prosecutions to care. But if there IS public awareness and people are watching and people are reporting and people are keeping an eye on folks, then - I believe - there will be a move toward fairness and a leveling of the field - so that we can restore the system of justice back to a point where it is free of fear and favor and we won't have people like Aafia and ...(others) suffering unnecessarily...
And families can be brought back together.
Click to listen: Mohammad Siddiqui (Dr. Aafia’s Older Brother)
Fact vs. Fiction Webinar Audio Files: original audio and others as well speaking to this case here