Surely the real point about Aafia Siddiqui is being missed?
Written by Asim Qureshi Tuesday, 07 June 2011
During Aafia’s years of disappearance, a number of allegations were made against her by the US, allegations that were circled within the mainstream on a consistent basis.
Since the release of The Guantanamo Files in April 2011 by Wikileaks, there have been a number of stories written in relation to those detained at the infamous base. One of the stories that received some mainstream coverage though, was that of Aafia Siddiqui. However, the coverage that was received, completely missed the point.
During Aafia’s years of disappearance, a number of allegations were made against her by the US, allegations that were circled within the mainstream on a consistent basis. Among the more ridiculous statements that were made included references to her purportedly having run conflict diamonds out of Liberia in the summer of 2001 in order to fund Al Qaeda operations. The sad fact remains, that very few have considered the ludicrous allegations that have been levelled against her.
The most important point to note, however, is that the US refused to prosecute Aafia on any terrorism related offences as part of their case. They started the case making that point, and references to terrorism did not enter until the judge chose to enhance her sentence claiming that he felt she had links.
But who wrote the narrative regarding these links, it was the US government. All the Wikileaks cables do, is to show a distorted view of Aafia’s case. If one is to look at her timeline of activity according to her lawyers and supporters, there was no time for her to be involved with any kind of Al Qaeda related activity.
Like many foreign Muslims living in the US after 9/11, Aafia Siddiqui and her family became suspects, and thus any kind of activity they may have been involved in, became suspicious.
Within days of the 9/11 attacks, the FBI launched the PENTTBOM investigation – thousands of foreign Muslims were detained and placed through vigorous checks and, in many cases, detained for long periods without charge. The wide net of suspicion was cast and it soon became difficult for many Muslims to live in the US due to harassment they faced by the FBI and other authorities. As a result, Siddiqui and her husband returned to Pakistan.
In 2002 Aafia and her husband returned to the US where they separated and were eventually divorced on 21 October 2002. An argument between Aafia and her husband at her parent’s home resulted in a heart attack and the eventual death of her father. Within a few weeks of this incident she gave birth to her youngest child.
On 25 December 2002 Aafia Siddiqui returned to the US in order to look for work in the Baltimore area where her sister Fowzia now lived – she had job offers lined up at John Hopkins and SUNY. She remained in the US until 2 January 2003 – having used the time in order to search for work.
In March 2003, Aafia Siddiqui disappeared and there was very little evidence as to where she and her children may be.
Disappearance between March 2003 – July 2008
During much of this period of disappearance, there was very little in the way of evidence as to where Aafia Siddiqui and her children were, or indeed where they were being kept.
According to Pakistani officials who commented on the case of Siddiqui’s disappearance for the government, they had no knowledge of her whereabouts and were officially still looking for her. A senior Pakistani security official explained to the Association Press that they were attempting to locate her but that she had gone underground.
On 8 August 2008, the Daily Times newspaper in Pakistan made reference to documents that existed which confirmed that they Military Intelligence of Pakistan had detained Aafia Siddiqui and her three children on 30 March 2003 and, that they had been handed over to the FBI.
In March 2010 – a senior security official from Pakistan confirmed to Cageprisoners that an internal investigation into the Pakistani government had revealed that Pakistan was involved with her detention in 2003.
During the period of her disappearance, the FBI released a seeking information poster relating to her questioning in 2004. She appeared on the poster with six men.
Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller III on 26 May 2004 made a public appeal to the American people in helping the law enforcement agencies to find six men and one women with ties to terrorism. The one women that was shown in the pictures was Aafia Siddiqui. Ashcroft specifically commented that, “credible intelligence from multiple sources indicate that al Qaeda plans to attempt an attack on the United States in the next few months.” He further added that the seven, including Siddiqui, “...should all be considered armed and dangerous.”
In an article written by Robert Fisk for the Independent on 19/03/2010, Aafia Siddiqui’s uncle, Dr Shams Hassan Faruqi allegedly made the claim that he saw Aafia free in 2008 before the incident in Ghazni and further in an article in the New York Times that he had submitted an affidavit to the Pakistani authorities about her to that effect.
Dr Faruqi has now released an officially signed declaration to negate such speculation within the media:
“With reference to the news item published in the Urdu daily ‘Jang’ Rawalpindi of 8 March 2010 on some news published in New York Times, regarding my submission of an affidavit to Pakistani authorities about my niece Dr Aafia Siddiqui. I hereby declare that I have not given any statement to anybody including the concerned or unconcerned government authorities about Dr Aafia. The news published in the New York Times to this effect is totally false and baseless.
I further declare that Dr has never requested me to get established contact with the Pakistani or Afghani Taliban.”
US transfer of jurisdiction
According to the US indictment, Aafia Siddiqui was extradited (although no extradition process was used) to the US from Afghanistan for allegedly, “unlawfully, willingly, and knowingly...[prepared to]use a deadly and dangerous weapon and...forcibly assault, resist, oppose, impede, intimidate, and interfere.” Also she is alleged to have attempted to kill officers and employees of the United States.
The above two counts of criminality serve to act as one of the most confounding conundrums of the eight years of the War on Terror. Siddiqui was allegedly found in Afghanistan, attempting to attack an Afghani compound (at least according to the Afghanis) – thus, she should be tried for committing a war crime in the arena of conflict, or she should be tried for attempting to commit an act of terrorism, or even for having a child soldier with her. The internationally serious crimes of terrorism and war crimes were completely ignored by the US in their indictment of Siddiqui. They have indicted her for two far lesser offences and, in a jurisdiction which is outside of the country where the incident took place. Aafia Siddiqui was not extradited to the US, no such formal process was used rather she was placed on a rendition flight without being given the opportunity to challenge her transfer.
Further, this is one of the first times that a non-US citizen has not been designated an ‘enemy combatant’ and detained at one of the many bases around the world. Why was Aafia Siddiqui sent to the US mainland when no foreign detainee before her was treated in such a way? Why was Siddiqui not sent to Guantanamo Bay?
Considering the list of allegations that have been levied against Siddiqui over the last five years, there was not a single reference to her involvement in international terrorism during her indictment.
Questions must be raised as to why such seemingly important points have been completely ignored for the sake of indicting on lesser offences? It is indeed these last points that are so troublesome for those who have studied this case in detail. They do not correspond at all with the history of the case.
The real questions relating to Aafia Siddiqui’s case are not being asked. When an entire background story was established to portray her as a terrorist, why was she never tried or indeed even accused of being one before a court of law?
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