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Posts Tagged ‘Afia Siddiqui’

On August 5, 2008, CHUP first reported about Dr. Afia Siddiqui, the Pakistani woman who, along with her three children, disappeared in early 2003. Many, including her family and several human rights groups, claim that Afia was actually Prisoner 650, a prisoner-of-war who was reportedly held without trial in a U.S. prison in Afghanistan. Despite the allegations that Siddiqui was held in U.S. custody, particularly after the FBI in 2004 described her as an “Al Qaeda operative and facilitator who posed a clear and present danger to America,”  her whereabouts for the past five years were never confirmed. In July 2008, however, Afia allegedly “reappeared” when she attacked and shot a U.S. military officer in Afghanistan. Afia was then transported to New York, where she was charged with one count of attempting to kill U.S. officers and employees, and one count of assaulting U.S. officers and employees, with a maximum 20 years in prison on each charge, [no charges related to the terrorism allegations have been raised]. On September 4th, media outlets reported that she was indicted on those charges.

This week, news agencies provided further updates on Dr. Afia Siddiqui’s trial. BBC News on Tuesday reported that Afia “has been deemed by U.S. psychiatrists as mentally unfit to stand trial.” The news agency added, “They have concluded that Afia Siddiqui is unable to understand the nature and consequences of court proceedings and cannot assist properly in her defense…The evaluation was performed at a medical center in Fort Worth, Texas,” where she is currently in custody. On Wednesday, Judge Richard Berman affirmed to the federal court that the defendant was not competent to continue with the trial, emphasizing that her “course of treatment should continue.”

According to a Pakistani news agency, Afia’s lawyer, Elizabeth Fink, told the court that her client was “hallucinating” about her family, saying, “She [Afia] believes she lives with two of the children.” As we learned in September, Afghanistan’s government handed over custody of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui’s son Muhammad Ahmed to Pakistani authorities. Of her other two children, [that went missing in 2003], one is allegedly dead, while the other is still missing.

Meanwhile, the controversial case has stirred public concern and outrage in Pakistan. Her family insists that Afia is “innocent of any crime” and deny that she has connections to Al Qaeda. According to a Pakistani news agency, “A leading Pakistani human rights activist has reportedly filed a constitutional petition seeking intervention by the Sindh High Court (SHC) to ensure the release and safe return of Dr. Afia Siddiqui.” According to the Nation, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani also recently told the Parliament that he had conveyed  to the U.S. Ambassador the Pakistan’s concern over Dr. Afia Siddiqui’s continuous detention in the U.S., demanding that she be sent back to Pakistan “immediately on medical grounds.”

It is a case marred by controversy, ambiguity, and human tragedy. Regardless of what Afia Siddiqui is guilty of, her disappearance, and more importantly, the disappearance of her three young children for five years are cause for concern and hold further ramifications for the deepening anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan.

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According to Geo News on Monday, Afghanistan’s government handed over custody of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui’s son Muhammad Ahmed to Pakistani authorities in Kabul on Monday. Geo cited foreign ministry sources who said that “officials of Pakistan and Afghanistan met today in Kabul after which Afghanistan’s interior ministry official Daud Panj Sheri handed over Muhmmad Ahmed to Pakistani ambassador Asif Durrani.” Siqqui’s son is expected to be on the next available flight to Pakistan.

For past posts on the controversy surrounding Dr. Afia Siddiqui’s case, click here.

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Media outlets reported on Tuesday that Dr. Afia Siddiqui was indicted by a U.S. court “for allegedly attacking U.S. agents who went to interrogate her after she was arrested by local police in Afghanistan.” According to the AFP:

Siddiqui faces one count of attempting to kill U.S. nationals abroad; one count of attempting to kill U.S. officers and employees; one count of armed assault of US officers and employees; one count of using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence; and three counts of assault of U.S. officers and employees.

The official statement read, “If convicted, Siddiqui faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each of the attempted murder and armed assault charges; life in prison on the firearm charge; and eight years in prison on each of the remaining assault charges.”

The statement, noted the AFP, also read, “Siddiqui was carrying items including handwritten notes referring to a “mass casualty attack” and a list of several U.S. locations, including the Plumb Island Animal Disease Center, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, and the Brooklyn Bridge.” However, the Daily Times reported, “While the U.S. intelligence officials have told Pakistani officials in past weeks that there is coercive evidence in their possession linking the Pakistani scientist to terrorism and Al Qaeda, surprisingly no such charge has been brought against her.” The news agency detailed two possible reasons for this: “one that the prosecution is fairly confident that it can obtain a conviction without charging her with terrorism; and, two, that the prosecution does not want to disclose information that would have had to be made public were Siddiqui to be charged with terrorism.”

Siddiqui’s case is a very controversial one, with rights groups and her family claiming she was held in a U.S. prison in Afghanistan for about five years prior to her reappearance last month, [for all CHUP posts on Afia Siddiqui, click here.] Siddiqui will reportedly be arraigned on her indictment today.

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An interesting update on the controversial Dr. Afia Siddiqui case, the Pakistani woman currently held on U.S. federal charges in New York but who is also suspected of being Prisoner 650, a prisoner-of-war who was held in U.S. prison in Afghanistan for the past few years, [see related posts]. Siddiqui allegedly disappeared in Karachi along with her three children in early 2003. Although Dr. Siddiqui only reappeared after her reported arrest in Afghanistan last month [she was accused of assaulting and attempting to kill U.S. officers], the whereabouts of her children were still unknown. However, the Daily Times reported today that U.S. authorities said an 11 year old boy who was captured with Siddiqui last month is her son Ahmed. According to the Washington Post, “The boy was detained July 18 when Afghan police arrested Siddiqui in what they described as a shootout near a government compound in Ghazni.”

The Daily Times cited Siddiqui’s attorney, Elizabeth Fink, who said that Siddiqui will petition a federal court to have Ahmed placed in the custody of her brother in Texas. Until then, human rights groups have responded strongly to news of Siddiqui’s young son in U.S. custody. In a press release, Human Rights Watch asserted, “Whether or not his mother is implicated in criminal acts, Ahmed Siddiqui should not be held responsible. Under both Afghan and international law, he is too young to be considered criminally responsible for his mother’s alleged acts.” Moreover, the organization “expressed concern not only for Ahmed Siddiqui, but also for two siblings, Mariam, age 10, and Suleman, age 5, who have been missing since March 2003.”

CHUP will continue to cover developments related to the Afia Siddiqui case. Her court hearing will continue on September 3, 2008 at 2:00 pm [EST] in New York City.

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The Associated Press reported that a New York judge Monday ordered the federal government to provide a doctor for Dr. Afia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman charged with trying to kill U.S. employees in an Afghanistan gunfight, and who rights organizations and her family allege was secretly taken into U.S. custody about five years ago. In her bail hearing today, Siddiqui’s lawyers said “her health is worsening from wounds suffered in the encounter last month.” Defense lawyer Elizabeth Fink said Siddiqui may have lost a kidney and suffered brain damage.” Reuters cited Fink, who asserted during today’s hearing, “She has been here, judge, for one week and she has not seen a doctor, even though they (U.S. authorities) know she has been shot.” A “frail-looking” Siddiqui reportedly sat in a wheelchair during the proceeding, while about 20 protesters outside the court held posters that said, “Stop U.S. Torture, close Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib & Bagram,” accusing the United States of secretly detaining Siddiqui.

The Reuters piece reported that U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Pitman, despite calling for Siddiqui’s immediate medical attention, “also ordered she continue to be held without bail.”

CHUP will update this post as more details are reported. For this website’s past coverage on Dr. Afia Siddiqui, click here and here.

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The now-infamous Dr. Afia Siddiqui, who rights groups and her family allege was being held in a U.S. prison in Afghanistan following her disappearance five years ago, was in court in New York Tuesday on charges of assaulting and attempting to kill U.S. officers last month, [see previous post for more details]. Depite the contradictory reports, both about her capture and her whereabouts over the past five years, the AFP reported, “in court Tuesday, all that seemed sure, given Siddiqui’s obvious frailty, was that she had recently been shot. The wound, her lawyer Elizabeth Fink said, is still ‘oozing,'” [Siddiqui was reportedly shot in the chest by U.S. officers after she allegedly "attacked them"]. Dawn newspaper reported Fink told U.S. Judge Ronald Ellis “that the allegation that her client, who weighed 90 pounds, had picked up the rifle and attacked the Americans, was ‘patently absurd.'”

Although Fink demanded Siddiqui’s immediate release, the Daily Times reported that the U.S. federal court judge ordered she “be held without bail, with a bail hearing set for August 11 followed by a regular hearing on August 19.” Dawn noted that Judge Ellis also said “he would ask prison officials to make sure she was receiving proper medical care after a defense attorney told the magistrate that she had been shot.” The judge also reportedly “expressed surprise” at the quick extradition of Siddiqui from Afghanistan to New York, “noting that in such a short period one could not extradite a person from Bronx (a New York Borough) to Manhattan.”

The current charges, however, still do not reflect the previous allegations that Dr. Siddiqui “had links to at least two of the 14 men suspected of being high-level members of Al Qaeda who were moved to Guantánamo Bay in September 2006,” reported Dawn. According to the AFP,

Living in the United States at the time of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, she was briefly detained and questioned over support for Islamic charities seen as suspicious. She was never charged. In 2003 alleged 9/11 mastermind Khaled Sheikh Mohammed named her under interrogation and in 2004 she appeared on a U.S. list of alleged Al-Qaeda operatives…Yet Mohammed’s testimony has since been discredited by revelations that he was tortured in US custody.

She is not being charged with terrorism claims, just with assault and attempted murder charges. However, defense lawyers are claiming that the alleged “shoot-out with FBI and U.S. army officers in Afghanistan was invented to cover up the truth about Siddiqui’s disappearance into a secret U.S. prison system.” While the truth has not yet been ascertained, Dr. Afia Siddiqui’s case speaks to a much larger, overarching issue – the disappearance of hundreds of people after 9/11, people that may have been secretly taken into U.S. custody. Sam Zarifi, of Amnesty International, told the AFP, “Regardless of what happened to her, she really fits the pattern of hundreds of others that Amnesty International has documented, where people disappeared and ended up in U.S. custody.” Her family believes that after leaving her parents’ house in Karachi she and her children were kidnapped, handed over to U.S. forces and “imprisoned illegally at the Bagram base in Afghanistan.” According to the AFP, “Defense lawyers said Tuesday they’d had too little time to find out from their client what had happened, but that she spoke of having been incarcerated and “abused.’

We must all stay tuned for the August 11 hearing to hear what happens next and what other facts can be unveiled to help us all piece together this very fragmented and disturbing story. [Below is a news segment by Al-Jazeera English]:

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UPDATE [11/21]: Afia Siddiqui deemed unfit for trial – click here for latest CHUP article.

UPDATE [9/15]: Dr. Afia Siddiqui’s son has been handed over to Pakistan. Click here to read CHUP’s latest update.

UPDATE [9/4]: Dr. Afia Siddiqui was indicted on assault and attempted murder charges. Click here to read CHUP’s latest article.

UPDATE [7/27]: Click here to read CHUP’s latest update on Dr. Afia Siddiqui.

UPDATE, WEDNESDAY 0806 GMT: According to the BBC News Wednesday, Pakistani newspapers reported on Dr. Afia Siddiqui‘s disappearance the day after it occurred, noting “a woman had been taken into custody on terrorism charges.” However, despite an initial confirmation from Pakistan’s interior ministry, both the government and the FBI publicly denied having anything to do with her disappearance several days later. Dr. Siddiqui’s mother [who has since passed away] told the BBC in 2003, that a man wearing a motorbike helmet arrived at the family’s residence in Karachi and told her, “If I ever wanted to see my daughter and grandchildren again, I should keep quiet.” The BBC added, “This is despite the fact that Mrs. Siddiqui’s other daughter, Fauzia, says she was told by then Interior Minister Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat in 2004 that her sister had been released and would return home shortly.” For more details, see the BBC piece, as well as this Washington Post article.

[Original Post Below]:

Yesterday, CHUP posted a poem written by contributor Hassan Abbas addressed to Dr. Afia Siddiqui, suspected to be Prisoner 650, a prisoner-of-war in reported terrible medical condition located in a U.S. prison in Afghanistan. Siddiqui was allegedly arrested along with her three children by the Pakistani intelligence agency in early 2003 and has been missing since then, according to the Asian Human Rights Commission. Although American and Pakistani intelligence agencies had both confirmed she had been arrested, they reportedly [according to the AHC report] later denied her arrest. Despite this, rights groups and her family allege that she was being held at the U.S. Bagram Internment Facility for more than four years. Recently, British journalist Yvonne Ridley dubbed this Prisoner 650 as the Grey Lady of Bagram, and flew to Pakistan to highlight the plight of this woman.

Despite the allegations that Siddiqui was held in U.S. custody, her whereabouts for the past five years were never confirmed. On Tuesday, however, the Associated Press reported that Siddiqui, an MIT-educated Pakistani woman, “once identified as an Al Qaeda associate,” was brought to New York “to face charges she tried to kill U.S. agents and military officers during an interrogation in Afghanistan.” [see AP image above] The news agency reported:

Aafia Siddiqui, who was shot and wounded last month during the confrontation, was expected to be arraigned Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan on charges of attempted murder and assault, U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia said in a statement. A lawyer for her family said the allegations are false.

U.S. authorities provided a different account of how they detained Siddiqui. According to BBC News,

The U.S. military says it took custody of Ms. Siddiqui in Afghanistan last month…A statement by the FBI says Mrs Siddiqui was apprehended on 17 July in the Afghan province of Ghazni by local security forces. According to the statement, U.S. army officers and FBI agents visited her in detention on 18 July. During the visit, Ms. Siddiqui reportedly attempted to kill US officers with a weapon she had snatched. The attempt failed and she was reportedly overpowered after being shot in the chest by the Americans.

According to the Associated Press, however, “Afghan officials gave conflicting accounts of what transpired between Siddiqui and the U.S. interrogators,” at the time of the incident. The news agency reported, “Gen. Khan Mohammad Mujahid, police chief in central Ghazni province, initially said police argued with the Americans over giving up custody of Siddiqui. But he later said there was no argument and that the woman lunged at one of the U.S. soldiers, drawing the gunshot.”

Her family, not surprisingly, reacted strongly to the U.S. report. Afia’s sister, Fauzia Siddiqui told reporters during a news conference in Karachi, “What a mockery that after five years in detention Afia is suddenly discovered in Afghanistan… I decided to break my silence to say that one is innocent until proven guilty. My sister is innocent and has never been actually accused of any crime.” The family’s attorney, Elaine Whitfield Sharp, called the charges “a tall story,” asserting, “I believe she’s become a terrible embarrassment to them, [U.S. authorities], but she’s not a terrorist…When the truth comes out, people will see she did nothing wrong.”

Afia, now in the U.S., has been charged with one count of attempting to kill U.S. officers and employees, and one count of assaulting U.S. officers and employees, with a maximum 20 years in prison on each charge, reported Western media outlets. So far, however, she has not been charged with terrorism-related counts. Her three children, who went missing with her, have also not been found. Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S., Hussain Haqqani has reportedly lodged a request with U.S. authorities for consular access to Siddiqui, according to the Associated Press of Pakistan.

Ultimately, nobody disputes the fact that Siddiqui, along with her three children, disappeared in 2003. The conflicting reports instead surround what has happened to Dr. Afia Siddiqui in the past five years. If she was indeed Prisoner 650, as speculative reports have suggested, then that is extremely problematic. Regardless of what this woman did or did not do, she is entitled to due process of law. She is, as her sister asserted, innocent until proven guilty, and no human being should be subjected to the cruel and inhumane treatment that she allegedly has undergone. And what of her three children? It disturbs me to no end that a women and her young children can disappear without a sound and no official action is taken. Now that she has appeared in New York, it will be interesting for all of us to watch what unfolds.

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The story of Dr. Afia Siddiqui has garnered major attention in Pakistan. According to The News, much has been made of her “discovery” in FBI custody over the past few days. However, noted the news agency, “a close examination of the various reports relating to her discovery reveals very little of substance and certainly does not reveal an admission by the FBI that she is being held by them. Also missing are her three children, the youngest born about 2001 and the oldest about 1991. There are no reports of them being seen since March 2003 when Afia Siddiqui herself disappeared.” Below is a poem written by contributor Hassan Abbas who said he was motivated to write the piece “after reading the shockingly monstrous, inhuman and criminally illegal way the U.S. forces in Afghanistan have treated a Pakistani married woman and her small children for the past five years.” Details of Siddiqui’s situation can be read at the blog, Teeth Maestro. Hassan noted, “After repeatedly denying any knowledge of her whereabouts for the past five years, the Americans have finally been forced to admit to their act because of the efforts of Mr. Moazzam Begg, who recounted his experiences as a U.S. prisoner in a book… British Lord Nazeer; a British journalist Yvonne Ridley; and a number of human rights organizations also have presented evidence of a certain prisoner-of-war known as Prisoner 650 who was in terrible medical condition within an American prison located in Afghanistan. These same people said they had reason to suspect that Prisoner 650 is Dr. Afia Siddiqui.” Below, is Hassan’s poem to Siddiqui, “prisoner 650 in American custody”:

A Glorious Dawn…And a Better Day

Another dawn …another day,
Disgrace; insult is thrown our way;
Yet shamelessly on their golden perch
The spineless look – Oh how they sway!

As if there is no Lord above,
They with the devil-hand in glove;
Selling our dearest values and souls,
For gold and power – push and shove!

This crime you saw they so denied,
To filthy scum they sold the bride;
Yet the mighty Creator seeing it all
Unveils the gruesome act they hide!

Amongst ravenous wolves the fair one lies,
As from brutish hands she helplessly flies;
A suffering sister sane no more,
Her anguished screams – they rent the skies.

And this is all the pride you boast,
Our tormentors you daily host !
But yesterday we shared the cup,
– And today so far apart we coast ?

When comes a ‘Qasim’ to stem this rot?
Of Almighty Allah and His Messenger forgot!
Of cheaply selling our heritage which -
With submission and sacrifice was dearly bought.

And yet the strong will go their way,
As an ‘Iftikhar’ keep the monsters at bay;
Afia! Our elders pray, while the braver fight -
For a glorious dawn…and a better day!

A note from Hassan: I ask readers of this poem to please join the cause to get her release by signing this petition and doing anything else to protest this monstrosity- if you so wish. May I request you to please give this appeal the widest circulation.

While CHUP does not endorse the views of our contributors, we do encourage others to contribute pieces voicing their opinion on Pakistani issues they find pertinent. To contribute, please email changinguppakistan@gmail.com with your name, topic idea, and background. We will then work with you to produce an article that will be posted on this site, attributed to you.

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