TRUE FACTS ABOUT AAFIA SIDDIQUI
TRUE FACTS ABOUT AAFIA SIDDIQUI
Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani mother of three, has come to be known as the “daughter of the nation” in Pakistan. Though her name is known to almost every Pakistani citizen, the breadth of the injustices that she has endured continues to shock the conscience of all those who learn about her plight.
Illegal Abduction of Aafia and her Children
In March 2003, Aafia was illegally apprehended in Karachi by domestic and foreign government agents. Her kidnappers forcibly removed her from the car in which she was riding along with her three small children. That was the last time Aafia– or anyone else –ever saw her six-month old baby, Suleiman, who was thrown to the ground and left for dead.
Her eldest son, Ahmed, was only 6 years old at the time of the abduction. He, along with Aafia’s 4-year old daughter, Mariam, were taken away and never saw their mother again. Ahmed and Mariam were separated from each other by their captors. Both children lived as orphans for nearly five years under abusive conditions, before finally being recovered by the Government of Pakistan and reunited with their Grandmother in Karachi.
Illegal Imprisonment and Torture at Secret “Black Sites”
For five years (2003-2008), Aafia was secretly imprisoned at undisclosed “Black Sites” –where she was repeatedly tortured and abused. Her interrogators – some of whom spoke with American accents – forced her to falsify documents and write incriminating statements in her own handwriting. If she refused, they threatened to torture or kill her children. Her captors also frequently injected her with psychotropic drugs, and the psychological abuse she suffered at their hands has left her severely traumatized and confused. Her family had no idea what had happened to her, and feared the worst.
In early 2008, journalists and activists discovered evidence that Aafia could still be alive, and began a campaign to find out what had happened to her. Soon thereafter, her captors drugged her and attempted to frame her by sending her out with a bag of incriminating documents and suspicious-looking items, and put her on a bus to Ghazni, Afghanistan. When she arrived in Ghazni, some local people took notice of the fact that she was a foreign woman, didn’t know the town, and couldn’t understand the local language. Trying to help a stranger in their land, they contacted the police, who eventually took her into custody “for her own protection”.
Shooting in Ghazni and Transfer to Bagram
While in Afghan police custody in Ghazni, Aafia was beaten by Afghan police. US military forces came to “interrogate” Aafia, but instead of asking questions, they shot her through the stomach multiple times. The soldiers later claimed they shot Aafia in self-defense – though the Afghan police at the scene disputed their accounts. The stories of the US soldiers regarding what happened were wildly inconsistent. According to Aafia’s own sworn testimony, she never touched, or even reached for, a weapon before she was shot. Over the objections of Afghan police, the same US soldiers who shot Aafia then removed her from Afghan police custody, and took her to the US military base at Bagram, Afghanistan.
At Bagram, Aafia was taken to the hospital, but kept in four point restraints. While in severe physical pain, and heavily medicated, Aafia’s hands and feet were tied to the bed in four point restraints. Two undercover FBI agents were posted in her room to obtain incriminating statements from Aafia before she could regain her mental and physical strength.
Illegal Rendition to the United States
While Aafia was still in fragile condition and severe physical pain, US authorities ordered her to be transferred from military custody in Afghanistan to the United States. No extradition hearing or legal proceedings of any kind were provided. The US government denied Aafia consular access, and illegally transferred her to the United States without notifying Pakistani authorities as required under international law. At no point while in US or Afghan custody was Aafia ever allowed to speak with an attorney or make a telephone call.
Detention in the United States
US authorities brought Aafia to New York City, where she was imprisoned and kept in solitary confinement. She was denied any meaningful ability to speak with her family or anyone she knew, and lawyers hired by the government of the United States and the Government of Pakistan were appointed to represent her – over her objections. She was never allowed the opportunity to find lawyers of her choice. During this time, she was also mentally, physically, and verbally abused. Though still recovering from gunshot wounds, she was repeatedly subjected to painful and humiliating strip searches whenever she was let out of her cell, even to make a telephone call to her family. These included cavity searches in which she was held down by several prison guards and had her clothes forcibly removed.
Illegal Criminal Trial and Conviction
US prosecutors charged Aafia with the attempted murder of US soldiers for the shooting incident in Ghazni. Aafia repeatedly protested the unfair conditions under which she was tried – including being strip searched just to attend court hearings or meet with attorneys. She also repeatedly fired her government appointed lawyers, and objected to the jurisdiction of the court over her case. She was not allowed to discuss or present evidence of her secret imprisonment. Instead, prosecutors introduced fear and prejudice into the mind of the jurors by characterizing Aafia as a dangerous terrorist who hated Americans and would stop at nothing to kill them.
At trial, it was established that there was no physical evidence that Aafia fired, much less even touched, a weapon of any kind during the shooting incident in Ghazni. Rather, all of the forensic evidence corroborated Aafia’s account of the incident – in which she was shot at point blank range by a US warrant officer. The US government’s only evidence against her was the conflicting witness accounts of the US soldiers who shot her – each of whom told wildly inconsistent stories which were unsupported by the physical evidence in the case. Despite the lack of credible evidence to support the charges leveled against her, she was convicted and sentenced to 86 years in prison.
Violation of Sixth Amendment
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.” Sixth Amendment to “US Bill of Rights” adopted 15th December 1791.
Aafia’s alleged crime did not take place on American soil, nor did Aafia receive a fair trial, nor was the jury impartial.
Serving a Life Sentence at Carswell
Aafia is currently imprisoned at a US maximum security prison in Fort Worth, TX. The federal prison in which she is held (Carswell) is located on a US military base, and family and visitor access is extremely limited for all of the prisoners. However, for Aafia, the restrictions are even worse, as she is held in isolation thousands of miles away from her children – who have not seen their mother in nearly a decade. She suffers daily in solitary confinement, without meaningful access to her family or attorneys. She is not allowed to freely practice her religion and her holy Koran has been desecrated numerous times.
Her ailing physical health is of great concern, and she has received no independent medical evaluation or treatment. Her emotional state is fragile; she has flashbacks of the torture that she has endured in the past, and lives in constant fear of the abuses at Carswell which continue to this day. The daily mental anguish she suffers can hardly be overstated – she is severely depressed and constantly tormented at the prison. Every day she spends at Carswell – thousands of miles away from her home, family, and country – is torture for both her – and her innocent children who miss their mother.
If the Government of Pakistan doesnot intervene to rectify this injustice, Aafia will spend the rest of her life at Carswell with no hope of ever being released. The possibility to end Aafia’s suffering and repatriate her to Pakistan exists – whether through a prisoner transfer or exchange, diplomatic negotiation, political pardon, or on purely humanitarian grounds. What is clear is that a sincere effort by Pakistani leaders would not only end Aafia’s suffering, but would offer hope for a new era of US-Pakistan relations based on mutual respect and compassion. Aafia was unable to file an appeal with attorneys of her choice and a “mock” appeal was filled by US Attorneys who never meet Aafia nor did they have her consent.