Archive for August 7th, 2008

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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