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Condemned By Their Silence

By Yvonne Ridley

There are literally millions of people across the world who are now involved in the intriguing case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and they fall into several categories.

The first is a huge army of ordinary people of faith and no faith who represent many different nationalities and their aim is to see justice and fair play delivered to Aafia.

The second is a small, but on the surface of it, more powerful group of individuals who are ruthlessly ambitious; prepared to manipulate the truth and openly lie to elevate their own position to the detriment of others and Aafia in particular.

These are numerous people in the Pakistani government, past and present, as well as the last two U.S. administrations and include the dark forces at play which support them as well as the coterie of smooth-talking diplomats and ambassadors who tread the corridors of power. Then there are the others — perhaps the most despicable group of all, who are what I call fence sitters and spectators. The great Irish philosopher Edmund Burke once said that evil would only triumph if good people sat back and did nothing and he was right.

With few exceptions, the larger Muslim organizations have remained uncharacteristically quiet about Aafia’s case.

Why have they been muzzled? Correction. Why have they allowed themselves to be muzzled? To their eternal shame, they have remained silent about the plight of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui because they have been duped by an officially-sanctioned unofficial whispering campaign.

The rule is simple, brothers (and sisters), comrades, friends, and campaigners. If something is wrong, it is wrong, entirely wrong, and in Aafia’s case there is something wrong about the kidnap, torture, and rendition of a brilliant academic and her three children.

The fence-sitters in the U.S. are a disgrace. Men without courage or backbone are more to be pitied, I suppose, as cowardice is a dreadful affliction in the battlefield that is life.

A yellow streak down the spine makes people look the other way, blinkers their vision, and forces them to adopt an ostrich position. This makes it all the more easy for hate preachers like Pastor Jones in Florida to emerge and threaten to burn the Holy Quran.

But Edmund Clarke was right when he said evil will triumph if good people sit back and do nothing. The leaders of the organizations I’ve mentioned are good people but they are frightened and I pray that one day they will muster the courage they so desperately need to stand up and be counted.

And in these troubled times, it does take courage to stand up against an arrogant, bullying, intimidating political machine which brought words like kidnap, torture, rendition, water-boarding, and extra-judicial killings into daily use.

Just a few hours remain before the resumption of a trial in a New York court which is being presided over by Judge Richard Berman. To his eternal shame, he is one who has remained silent about the manner and style with which Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was presented in his court.

How the hell can a Pakistani citizen who allegedly committed a crime in Afghanistan be tried in his court without an official extradition procedure at the very least?

Why did he not demand that the paperwork was at least in order? He has presided over a mistrial from the outset.

He deemed the defendant mentally fit to stand trial but not mentally capable of determining her own legal team. Whenever Dr. Aafia Siddiqui — a brilliant neuroscientist bordering on genius by the way — attempted to sack her lawyers, he refused her request, saying she wasn’t mentally fit to make the decision. You can’t have it both ways, Your Honor.

Judge Berman has alas, so far, remained silent about the private — behind closed door meetings — he has had with Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani. Another good reason for a mistrial, if only the legal team had the backbone to challenge the judge in his court.

The trouble is so-called ‘Dream Team’ lawyers Charlie Swift and Linda Moreno’s very lucrative two-million-dollar trial was being paid for by the Pakistani government, making Mr. Haqqani the overall client. Hmm, how does that one work when the Pakistani government colluded in the first place with U.S. intelligence agencies to kidnap Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and her three children from the streets of Karachi in March 2003? Another reason to declare a mistrial.

And what of the ubiquitous Mr. Haqqani? He’s not a career diplomat. In fact, he holds U.S. citizenship or has aspirations to, making him a very peculiar choice as Pakistan’s man in Washington. Once his foray into the world of diplomacy comes to an end, he’ll resume his career as a lecturer in America, something his U.S. controllers remind him on a regular basis.

His Excellency has certainly been a busy little bee with regard to Dr. Aafia’s case… briefing some of my colleagues in the Western media, telling them ‘off the record’ what a bad woman she is!

Just recently his cover was blown when he refused to grant the very excellent female politician Cynthia McKinney a visa to Pakistan. Cynthia was part of an international delegation due to travel to Islamabad to raise concerns about the case with the government there.

Mr. Haqqani, who thinks nothing of giving visas to Blackwater/Xe guns-for-hire and mercenaries heading to the fresh killing fields of Pakistan, saw fit to stop the former U.S. congresswoman from travelling there.

He squirmed and wriggled after being hoisted by his own petard, but like a worm impaled firmly on a fishhook of his own making, he could not escape the humiliating exposure of his duplicitous behavior.

If he has been briefing against Dr. Aafia Siddiqui all this time, one can only imagine what nonsense he filled in Judge Richard Berman’s head during their private meetings. In any other country this sort of revelation would be a career wrecker for both men, but justice in the U.S. is a strange beast.

(Yes, this is a serious allegation to make and I would have asked the judge personally, but he has banned me from using his fax and phone! Hilarious really, when you consider he has no legal jurisdiction in London, where I live. Obviously, he thinks if he can hold a trial on a crime allegedly committed in Afghanistan, he can have me renditioned and charged with contempt of court.)

But let’s get back to Dr. Aafia’s case, which has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with protecting the names and reputations of a collective of men and women in the U.S. and Pakistan — from presidents past and present to lesser politicians and their craven diplomats.

And if it means sacrificing one Dr. Aafia Siddiqui on the fire of their burning ambitions, then these ruthless people have shown they are more than capable of doing it.

What you have to decide now is if you are a fence-sitter or a fighter for justice.

Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, but there is a growing army of ordinary people out there who will continue to campaign for justice for Aafia.

We will not be silent — nor will we throw in the towel after Thursday.

That is when our campaigning will really begin.

In the interests of justice, common sense, and decency, let all concerned bring an end to this farce now and reunite this innocent mother with her family.

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