British MP intervenes for Aafia Siddiqui (Sept 29/08)

By Karin Friedemann
Monday, September 29, 2008

Quite by chance I had the fortune of meeting British MP Lord Nazir Baron Ahmed of Rotherham in the County of South Yorkshire at the Friday prayer. He was passing through Boston on his way to New York where he planned to speak to Aafia Siddiqui’s lawyer in order to put some pressure on the US authorities to allow the sister to be hospitalized and treated for her gunshot wound as well as severe post-traumatic stress. In a phone conversation the next day, the Rt. Hon. the Lord Ahmed shared with me how he came to know about her tragic fate.

This summer, probably during their fact-finding mission to Darfur reported earlier in my blog, the famed reporter Yvonne Ridley approached Baron Ahmed to ask if he could find out anything about the legendary mystery of the “Grey Lady of Bagram.”

When Pakistani detainee Moazzem Begg was released without charge, he reported to the media that he still felt haunted by a woman’s sobbing cries and hysterical screams coming from Cell #650 at the US-run torture den in Afghanistan. Saudis liberated from Bagram during the daring Taliban prison break-out also reported that they had seen her.

Baron Ahmed tried to investigate whether the British intelligence service was involved in the interrogation of this woman, whether they were of abuse, and whether this lady was Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, the MIT and Brandeis-educated neuroscientist that mysteriously disappeared in Pakistan in March 2003 along with her 6 month old baby, and children aged 5 and 6?

Baron Ahmed addressed a similar interrogatory letter to the US ambassador in the UK, who passed it along to the British embassy in Kabul.

Pakistani politician Imran Khan held a press conference in Islamabad in order to rally public support for the “Grey Lady of Bagram.” The Pakistani government denied any knowledge of Prisoner 650 or Aafia. The UK denied having custody of her and said she was in the hands of the US. The US claimed that Prisoner 650 was “a different woman,” who had been released in 2005 to her (unnamed) country of origin.

Yet that same day this past July, when Kabul received the letter from Baron Ahmed, Aafia Siddiqui was reportedly to have been arrested while she was wandering around in Afghanistan, “as if she were on bloody holiday” in the words of the Baron, who rejects the dubious claim that she was carrying chemical, biological and radioactive weapons information as well as jars of chemicals in her purse. Siddiqui has no military expertise. Her primary focus of study was children’s cognitive development.

Human Rights Watch attorney, Carol Mariner states: “US federal prosecutors allege that the day after her arrest, while she was still in Afghan custody, she grabbed a gun from the floor and fired it at a team of US soldiers and federal intelligence agents visiting the Afghan police compound where she was being held.

Baron Ahmed however informed me that according to witnesses the US had told the Afghan authorities to hand Siddiqui over and the Afghan police were refusing. As they were negotiating, Siddiqui began to walk towards the US soldiers as she complained that the Afghan police were abusing her. One of the American soldiers panicked and shot the petite, unarmed woman in the stomach.

According to a report by Abu Sabaya, Siddiqui has not received adequate medical treatment for her bullet wound except for a botched bullet-removal surgery under US custody, in which one of her kidneys and part of her intestine were removed with the result that she is unable to properly digest food and that her entire torso is covered with layers of scar tissue. She was brought, emaciated and in terrible condition, to trial in New York in a wheelchair in September 2008. Not only was she in severe pain then, but her condition has since worsened significantly. Her trial was then postponed indefinitely a couple weeks ago under the excuse that she had refused the body cavity strip search required for her to leave her cell.

After much international media outcry, Aafia’s American-born son was located in an Afghan prison and was handed over to his relatives in Pakistan while Siddiqui was transferred to a Federal Prison in New York. No one knows what happened to her young daughter or her baby. There is a report that one of them was killed.

Aafia’s lawyers believe that she has spent the last five years as a secret captive of Pakistani or American authorities. According to Joanne Mariner, who is an attorney with Human Rights Watch in New York, the Pakistani papers reported that she had been “picked up in Karachi by an intelligence agency” and handed over to US authorities in 2003.

Before her abduction on March 18, 2003, the FBI had issued an alert requesting information about her. Siddiqui was then living in Pakistan after the completion of her studies in the US.

During her years as an undergraduate and graduate student, she was very active in the Muslim Students’ Association and in helping to manage a religious information (daw’ah) table in the MIT student center, in teaching Quran to recent converts to Islam, and in collecting winter boots to send to Bosnia.

A 2004 article from Boston Magazine quotes her: “Imagine our humble, but sincere daw’ah effort turning into a major daw’ah movement in this country! Just imagine it! And us, reaping the reward of everyone who accepts Islam through this movement, through years to come. Think and plan big. May Allah give this strength and sincerity to us so that our humble effort continue, and expands until America becomes a Muslim land.”

It is very possible that Boston neocons pinpointed this pious and idealistic student for neutralization. During the conflict over the Roxbury Mosque several Boston Jewish organizations conspired in deliberate character assassination of the founders of the Roxbury Mosque as “terror supporters” in an effort that included a bogus legal and media campaign in which the NE Israeli Consulate participated with the aim of causing a scandal in the hope that the multi-million dollar mosque building project would either be shut down or collapse.

In the course of the conflict, the David Project as well as other organizations and individuals collaborated with Steve Emerson and Rita Katz, two professional anti-Islam propagandists with links to the neocon establishment, to develop a list of incriminating sounding accusations and suspicious links that would be used to defame Muslim leaders in the Boston and national media. Although the accusations were baseless, the mysteriously well-funded organizations created a hostile and malicious media campaign with innuendo-laden press releases by the David Project front group, “Citizens for Peace and Tolerance.”

It is more than highly probable that one of these shadowy Zionist advocacy groups conspired against Siddiqui, used the same techniques developed during the Roxbury Mosque controversy and passed the same sort of faked evidence to the FBI. Had she been in the US, probably after a brief investigation, the FBI would have found nothing and left her alone, but because Pakistan was under heavy pressure to produce terrorists for the US to imprison, and because US Constitutional protections do not apply in Pakistan, the young woman was abducted while she was on the way to the train station.

Although all the evidence the FBI have on her and her husband seem to be some debit card donations to Islamic charities, the US government later alleged that Siddiqui was linked to al Qaeda. Both Siddiqui and her husband, Ali ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Ali (also known as Ammar al-Baluchi), disappeared from Karachi around March 28, 2003.

Siddiqui’s husband was finally located in September 2006 in Guantanamo, where he had been transferred from CIA custody. He is currently on trial for allegedly “sending money to suicide squads” according to the Miami Herald. Prosecutors are charging him, along with his uncle Khalid Sheik Mohammed, whom they refer to as “Al-Qaeda Kingpin,” and “9/11 Mastermind,” of conspiring with Osama bin Laden to plan and to finance the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.

This is a very curious charge, given that the FBI has publicly admitted that they have no evidence connecting Osama bin Laden to 9/11 according to information which is freely available on the FBI website.

The men were found to have been secretly held for three years by the CIA after having been arrested by Pakistani intelligence who rounded up dozens of “suspects” in Karachi, including people later determined to be tourists in order to collect the head bounty fee for America’s “War on Terror.”

Baluchi, a computer engineer, who speaks near-perfect English, has refused to accept legal representation and has chosen to represent himself in the military tribunal.

The Miami Herald quoted him as saying, ”I am in the wrong court. I am not a criminal. My case is political. Even though the government tortured me free of charge for all these years, I cannot accept lawyers under these circumstances. ”

The ACLU, whose lawyers were poised to argue on his behalf, blamed Pentagon regulations for thwarting any possibility of the development of a trust relationship with the potential client, who had been tortured for five years and had unsurprisingly come to mistrust all Americans.

Not only did Khalid Shayk Muhammad confess to planning 9/11 “from A to Z” while he was being waterboarded, also admitted to a long list of other terrorist acts, including the London train bombing of 2005, which he could not have possibly committed since he was in Guantanamo at the time of its occurrence, but he also rejected his American lawyer on religious grounds because he believes that the US Constitution “allows for same sexual marriage.”

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other organizations included Siddiqui in a 2007 list of disappeared persons that were believed to have been in CIA custody.

Baron Ahmed asked the US authorities for permission to see her and the US Justice Department said they would facilitate a visit. However, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has repeatedly tried to obstruct his access. Ahmed has since decided it would not be useful for him to visit Siddiqui anyway as she has reportedly gone mad. She is locked in solitary confinement in New York’s Metropolitan Detention Center and can only speak to her lawyer through the slot for her meal tray. She is in tremendous physical agony and speaks only of waiting for God to take her and her children. She apparently believes her young children are in there with her but this belief is believed to be the tragic maternal hallucinations of an emotionally destroyed human being, whose children had been stolen out of her arms by armed soldiers. According to one media report, she refused her dinner asked the prison guard to give the food to her son instead of her.

Siddiqui’s lawyer feels that under the present circumstances, she is not fit to stand trial, and she needs to be moved immediately to a prison hospital for treatment of her gunshot wound as well as to get some psychological help.

Without making any attempt to explain themselves the Federal authorities are obstructing her access to medical treatment. The US government is pressuring the judge and demanding that she remain alone in her cell. The American ambassador N.W. Peterson absurdly objected to Siddiqui receiving medical treatment on grounds that she is a “security threat.”

It is fairly clear to the author that the US wants her to die in order to prevent her from testifying about her prison experience, or else in order to inflame the Pakistani public into rioting against the US.

Pakistan is passionately demanding Aafia Siddiqui’s re-patriation. She has huge public support.

Benazir Bhutto’s widower Asif Ali Zardari, the recently elected President of Pakistan, said in a speech, “Aafia Siddiqui is my sister.”

Baron Ahmed will continue to work with the US Justice Department, Homeland Security, and other intelligence agencies, Siddiqui’s lawyers and the Prosecution to help facilitate family and doctor visits for her, and to bring about Siddiqui’s return to Pakistan.

Aafia’s brother in Texas has recently been offered access to see her.

Information provided by Ijaz Syed

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1 Comment

  1. kelly

     /  October 6, 2008

    Aafia Siddiqui’s situation is strange indeed. The stories on both sides (US DOJ and Caged Prisoners) seem far-fetched. Much of what Friedmann has written is baseless. Probably the most far-fetched of what Friedmann writes is the speculation that “Boston neocons pinpointed this pious and idealistic student for neutralization.” Excuse me? Is Ms. Friedmann on drugs?


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