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.