US ‘dark side’ raised in Aafia case

Friday, November 21, 2008
NEW YORK: The “dark side” of the US counter-terrorism took centre stage in the court case of the mentally ill Pakistani woman — Dr Aafia – accused of attacking US officers in Afghanistan.

The New York federal judge in the case of Dr Aafia highlighted defence allegations that she was abducted and tortured by US or allied forces prior to extradition from Afghanistan on attempted-murder charges in August.

Dr Aafia Siddiqui, 36, is undergoing psychiatric treatment at a government centre in Texas and, according to her lawyer, suffers hallucinations featuring her dead or missing children. Judge Richard Berman on Wednesday called for more information regarding allegations that the accuse vanished in 2003 and was held in secret captivity for five years. The allegations, which the US government rejects, are not part of the court case, but still need to be addressed, Berman told prosecution and the defence teams.

“Certainly it has a bearing on the clinical treatment and the issue of competence,” the Judge said. Defence lawyer Elizabeth Fink says that Siddiqui is not only innocent of those charges, but the victim of five horrific years in custody — an experience responsible for her current mental illness.

Fink quoted a 2001 statement by Vice President Dick Cheney in which he acknowledged that US anti-terrorism bodies use “the dark side, working quietly, without any discussion.” Obtaining the truth is almost impossible, Fink told the court, although with Barack Obama’s election as president, “God knows what is going to happen to this ëdark sideí stuff.”

“Siddiqui and her children were certainly not in US custody, certainly not kidnapped by US forces, the ‘dark side’,” he told the court. “A more plausible inference is that she went into hiding because people around her started to get arrested and at least two of those people ended up at Guantanamo Bay,” prosecutor Raskin said.

However, both Raskin and Fink admitted they had little hard evidence to prove Siddiqui’s whereabouts in that mysterious period. According to the preliminary medical report, as quoted by Fink, Siddiqui suffers visual hallucinations of one child, who is believed to be dead, and another, who is missing.

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