Friday, September 24, 2010

ondelette (FDL) ‘Enhancements’ and Forgiveness: Aafia Siddiqui gets 86 years

Thursday September 23, 2010 9:55 pm

Judge Richard Berman rewrote verdicts, applied enhancements and came up with 86 years, and after insisting that the defendant was sane, remanded her to Carswell Federal Prison for the Criminally Insane. For her part, Aafia Siddiqui told her supporters not to be angry but to forgive.

The New York Law Journal has a good article on how you can get 86 years out of an attempted murder verdict. They said Judge Berman applied all the enhancements possible. For instance, he made it a hate crime. And he apparently added years because he said she lied on the stand. Presumably that’s because she said she didn’t shoot the gun? The prosecution never proved she did, but never mind. The one that really got me was when he "ruled", on the insistence of Christopher LaVigne, that the shooting was "premeditated". That one overruled the jury, as Carolyn Weaver of Voice of America rightly pointed out, they had thrown out the verdict of premeditation last Spring.

And he ruled added an enhancement for terrorism. This was based on evidence he had previously ruled could not be shown to the jury, the contents of her handbag. In fact, much of the case was decided on what was not shown or given to the jury at all. The decision to declare her sane was explained today in detail, the factors that went into it were pieces of evidence taken during interrogation without informing the defendant of Miranda rights, without due process of any kind outside of the U.S. just prior to an illegal rendition. The rendition was never presented to the jury. The Afghan police were not allowed visas to testify in person in the trial, they were never before the jury. The Judge made the decision that terrorism was involved, based on the prosecution assertion of cyanide being found in her handbag, a fact that was carefully shielded from the jury, but which was the enhancement that increased all other sentences, the "ceiling shattering enhancement" according to the Journal.

Something is clearly wrong here. If she was going to be convicted of terrorism and sentenced for terrorism, and if testimony was going to be used for that conviction and sentencing that was taken using illegal interrogation, and if extraordinary rendition was going to be her method of arrest, then we have had two trials. One when the jury was present, during which Aafia Siddiqui was on trial for lunging for a gun and firing two shots in a struggle in which she was shot in the stomach, in which a jury heard evidence and voted on seven charges.

And around the edges of that trial, was another one, in which testimony was coerced with drugs and restraints and 24 hour lights and agents, in which there was no due process, in which lies were told to avoid the charge of shooting an "enemy combatant" who was hors de combat, in which Judge Berman and Christopher La Vigne presided over a court where the defendant had no right to be fit to stand trial, had no right to consular access before illegal refoulement, had no rights against cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, and is now to be held, while declaring her sane, in an institution for the insane, for — what is it Judge Berman? The duration of conflict? Is there a reason why Andy Worthington thinks you do the CIA’s work for them?

In that twilight court, Judge Berman, that takes place at your competency hearings and your sentencing hearings, where terrorism really is the charge, where the bags of cyanide and the FBI interrogation of a prisoner on morphine are admissible evidence, where your only real sentencing guidelines are the duration of a conflict you’ve been told will never end, can you really claim you are holding a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples?


Selected comments on this newest by ondelette:

A frightening, Orwellian hellhole that I would never have believed possible just a few years ago, but it’s considerably worse after we supposedly got that “change” and all. Thanks for keeping after this story; in the US you’re about the only one doing it.


At the end it just seemed like the judge did a recap of everything he did that wasn’t fair, as if to say this is what I did, and I’m proud of it. Andy Worthington’s piece today contains a links that are really, really disturbing. If they’re true, everyone in the courtroom except the defense was flat out lying the entire time.


An interesting sidelight is that one of her lawyers is the former Capt. Charles Swift, who came to prominence a few years ago for actually presenting a defense at Guantanamo while still in the service. I see he is still acting on principle, defending those who most need defense in this Orwellian nightmare perversion of American justice.


So tragic for Aafia, her family and our rule of law. Just think of all those members of the Party of Frauds who were so frightened about our courts trying detainees and how they yelled for Commissions to do the dirty work. Electing judges or having them appointed by the leadership of a political party, just doesn’t work. Neither does a system that is a combat for where the best or dirtiest competitor wins instead of a system that seeks justice for all.


AP Story:
Pakistan to fight for terrorist convict’s release


Thanks, ondelette. It is truly bizarre that the judge would go to such lengths to make the sentence so long. There clearly is a desire for her never to be free.


Thanks, odelette, for posting about this decision, “based on fear, but not on fact”, as one of Aafia’s attorneys put it.

It would appear that most good Americans will never hear of this sad travesty, as it is what passes for “justice”, in polite company, today.

The M4 Ms. Siddiqui is accused of having picked up from the police station floor and fired at US military officers and FBI agents, given the lack of bullets casings or residue, was never fired, and Ms. Siddiqui denied having even picked it up …

The Judiciary appear to be in full “cahoots” with the end of the rule of law, Constitutional due process, and basic reason.


It boggles the mind that she’s the one accused of trying to shoot some agents, when she’s the one with a couple of gunshot wounds in her torso.


Yes, tejanarusa the same Charles Swift. He’s been stumping for her since before the Pakistani government hired him...


I guess the lati charge wasn’t good enough, now it’s rocks and tear gas. Anne Patterson has been lying about this and about a lot of other disappeared people since the beginning, and there’s a lot of other frustration with the U.S. She shouldn’t have lied, what she’s still doing there is something President Obama and Hillary Clinton should answer to everyone.


She apparently got extra time for denying it. The judge called it “lying on the witness stand”. That’s what’s weird. He seems to have run his own trial in parallel with the one the jury heard.


In the abdomen. Put her hands on the gun, put the hands of the person struggling with her (allegedly the Afghan interpreter) on the gun, put her back on the wall (according to the interpreter), her legs in a crouch (according to the warrant officer), and find the front of her abdomen for two clear shots from a pistol that destroy part of her intestines and part of her spleen. Somebody’s lying.


That’s what’s weird. [U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman] seems to have run his own trial in parallel with the one the jury heard.

“Weird,” of course, is hardly the word for it.

Federal District Judge Richard Berman energetically served the powerful in this case, not justice. [He missed his calling on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.]

Meanwhile, in Pakistan – about which Judge Berman doubtless couldn’t care less, so long as the U.S. Executive is pleased with him – this is what the conduct of this case in Berman’s court, as prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, has generated (quoting a comment that ondelette made yesterday at Glenn’s):

In Pakistan they are planning to march from Karachi to Islamabad. Pasban has dropped their own flags and are going to march with Pakistan’s Green and White, to symbolize [Aafia Siddiqui's] status as voted by the Parliament as “daughter of the nation”. They literally have signs saying “This is the famous U.S. Justice System!”

The “famous U.S. Justice System” that was permitted by Judge Richard M. Berman to make a mockery of justice:

86 years for firing a military gun in a closed room, hitting no one, hitting no walls, leaving no shells, no powder burns, no bullet fragments, in such a manner that no two witnesses could agree on whether or not she was standing or crouching, or who even wrestled with her for the gun, or how a person with a pistol had a clear shot at her abdomen to hit her with two shots in two tries. During a trial in which she was obviously nuts, but nobody questioned why, her son is nuts, but nobody questions why, her son knows Dari, but nobody questions why, her daughter is nuts and speaks only English and can’t stand normal room lighting, but nobody questions why, the U.S. state department knew her baby was dead but didn’t know who her son was, but nobody questions why, and nobody on the jury of her peers, even asked why. - ondelette


Served the powerful indeed. The New York Law Journal article is a powerful indictment of the enhancement process when read against the VOA article detailing how far it departed from the jury verdict. I have the transcripts of the competency hearing, they could have written a similar piece, only it would have detailed the use of psychiatrists to bring coercive interrogation taken outside the country into a courtroom. This isn’t a court of law, and this isn’t the rule of law. It’s something too ugly to even understand. A monstrous cancer in the Judiciary quite apart from the other branches of government.

A “monstrous cancer” is a good description.


Good piece – thanks for putting it up. This whole story has so many strange and bizarre aspects, it’s like a convention of storytellers met and did one of those group projects where one person starts the story, then hands it off, then hands it off again, etc.

Think about this a bit – they say they found her in Afghanistan “in possession of two pounds of sodium cyanide, documents on biological warfare and what appeared to be a list of targets in the United States, including the Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge.” The storyline seems set to imply that somehow – what? She was going to fly to NYC in her state and transport her 2 lbs of cyanide to – what? Dump it off the Brooklyn bridge?

Then it’s as if the judge tries to imply from the bench that the Afghans and Afghan police etc. who were kept out of the trial were all somehow involved in a conspiracy with her as well, when he talks about the US showing up to find an “odd, Afghan-arranged scene.” There’s some loaded worded choice and construction at work.

...this kind of convoluted story only gets pieced together when too many people have too much to cover up. After all – in a world where the US has asserted the right to destroy evidence of its torture, engage in torture routinely and as authorized by even the oval office, to cover up for and protect its torturers, to refuse to release pictoral evidence of war crimes and abuse and refuse to prosecute those involved, etc. – well, I understand the DOJ’s claims about the state of mind of soldiers but where is the recognition of the state of mind of a Muslim woman in Afghanistan being handed off to a room full of male US operatives in a country where Obama as well as Bush has declared (via his anti-habeas arguments re: Bagram) that no law protects anyone from the US military? to Pakistani reaction.


protesters here chanted “Death to America” and burned the effigy of President Barack Obama

Police had to fire tear gas shells and baton charge a few to prevent activists from marching onto the US consulate in a commercial area of Karachi which is the hometown of the jailed scientist who was arrested by US forces from Afghanistan.

In Lahore, former Pakistan cricket captain, Imran Khan who heads Tehrik-e-Insaf led a big rally to condemn the sentencing of Aafia Siddiqui and said it was inhuman and unethical.

A couple more links:

Pakistan’s parliament “unanimously adopted a resolution demanding Siddiqui’s repatriation.” Imagine our Congress unanimously doing anything.


Truly a huge failing of our democracy and our democratic principles.

We are now all subject to this kind of ‘justice’, and that’s likely been the point of it all along.

To send a message to any who would dissent about anything.

86 years. And they will pick you up anytime they need another example.


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