Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Woman Buried Alive: Update on the Siddiqui Case

More details are emerging on the news that purported Al Qaeda prisoner in U.S. custody, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, has been declared mentally unfit to stand trial. Arrested last summer, and wounded after supposedly grabbing for a U.S. soldier's rifle, Siddiqui was given a Forensic Evaluation Report at FMC Carsville Texas Hospital, where she is currently held. This former neuroscientist is now said to be unable to understand the nature of the proceedings before her, and to be openly delusional.

The assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting Siddiqui's case denied in court NGO claims that the former MIT and Brandeis alumna was tortured or abducted by U.S. forces. He maintains there's not "a shred of evidence" Dr. Siddiqui was abused in any way.
He said it was more likely that Siddiqui disappeared in 2003 because she went into hiding after marrying an al-Qaida operative who helped facilitate the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and because she knew 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed.

[Prosecutor David] Raskin spoke at a hearing Wednesday to discuss a psychologist's conclusion that Siddiqui, 36, is mentally unfit for trial. She is being held at a Texas facility after she was brought to the United States in August to face attempted murder and assault charges.
Raskin also denied the U.S. had anything to do with the disappearance of Siddiqui's three children. He claimed a 12-year-old found with Aafia at the time of her arrest in Afghanistan was her oldest son. While this boy is said to be now with his grandmother, the U.S. attorney was vague about the others, saying only the government denied they had been abducted.

We don't know what really happened to Dr. Siddiqui's children. They are missing, thousands of miles away, or dead. Yet according to her attorney, Aafia is under the delusion that two of her children are with her, that she lives with them.

According to the AP report (linked above), Dr. Siddiqui's attorney, Elizabeth Fink, says her client's oldest son is "heavily medicated because he is seriously disturbed and under the care of a psychiatrist." The second oldest is believed dead, and the fate of the youngest child is unknown. (Siddique's attorney, Fink, is a well-known civil liberties lawyer, a protege of William Kunstler. Most recently, she "persuaded a judge to spare Lynne Stewart, the radical attorney convicted of conspiracy for passing messages for [an accused] terrorist client, of a lengthy prison term.")

Meanwhile, Associated Press of Pakistan has reported that the Pakistan embassy in Washington has asked the United States to repatriate Dr. Siddiqui to Pakistan for health and rehabilitation purposes. According to another paper out of Islamabad, the request is considered a long-shot. It's not clear that Siddiqui would be treated well in Pakistani custody either, given the accusations of connection, or even her relation by marriage to Khalid Sheik Mohammad.

That family connection between Siddiqui and KSM raises large question marks concerning her treatment by U.S. forces and the legal system. In the mind-boggling mistreatment of this devoutly religious woman, the U.S. (and perhaps their Pakistani allies) may wish to make a statement to the jihadists that not only will they be hunted down, but any sympathetic family members will be as well. And if innocent children get in the way... well, who knows? Who knows, for instance, what happened to the children of KSM himself, taken from his house when he was arrested and disappeared under CIA/Pakistani custody? Who in America, obsessed otherwise with missing children and Amber Alerts, really cares what happened to these children?

A Ghost Prisoner?

According to a 2007 Human Rights Watch report on "Ghost Prisoners" of the CIA:
The Pakistani authorities have made no secret of the fact that they have handed over several hundred terrorism suspects to the United States, boasting of the arrests and transfers as proof of Pakistan’s cooperation in US counterterrorism efforts. While the majority of these detainees were transferred into US military custody in Afghanistan or at Guantanamo,49 or were transported to third countries via the CIA’s rendition program,50 some substantial number of them disappeared into CIA custody.
Was Siddiqui tortured unto insanity in at Baghram or at a CIA black site prison? Here's an account from earlier this year, prior to Siddiqui's "recapture" (emphasis is added):
Dr. Afia Siddiqui left her mother’s house in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Karachi, Sindh province, along with her three children, in a Metro-cab on March 30, 2003 to catch a flight for Rawalpindi, Punjab province, but never reached the airport. The press reports claimed that Dr. Afia had been picked-up by Pakistani intelligence agencies while on her way to the airport and initial reports suggested that she was handed over to the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). At the time of her arrest she was 30 years and the mother of three sons the oldest of which was four and the youngest only one month.

A few days later an American news channel, NBC, reported that Afia had been arrested in Pakistan on suspicion of facilitating money transfers for terror networks of Osama Bin Laden. The mother of the victim, Mrs. Ismat (who has since passed away) termed the NBC report absurd. She went on to say that Dr. Afia is a neurological scientist and has been living with her husband, Amjad, in the USA for several years.

On April 1, 2003, a small news item was published in an Urdu daily with reference to a press conference of the then Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat. When questioned with regard to Dr. Afia’s arrest he denied that she had been arrested. This was followed by another Urdu daily article on April 2 regarding another press conference in which the same minister said Dr. Afia was connected to Al Qaeda and that she had not been arrested as she was absconding....

Whilst Dr. Afia’s whereabouts remain unknown, there are reports of a woman called ‘Prisoner 650′ is being detained in Afghanistan’s Bagram prison and that she has been tortured to the point where she has lost her mind. Britain’s Lord Nazeer Ahmed, (of the House of Lords), asked questions in the House about the condition of Prisoner 650 who, according to him is physically tortured and continuously raped by the officers at prison. Lord Nazeer has also submitted that Prisoner 650 has no separate toilet facilities and has to attend to her bathing and movements in full view of the other prisoners.

Also, on July 6, 2008 a British journalist, Yvonne Ridley [link added], called for help for a Pakistani woman she believes has been held in isolation by the Americans in their Bagram detention centre in Afghanistan, for over four years. “I call her the ‘grey lady’ because she is almost a ghost, a spectre whose cries and screams continues to haunt those who heard her,” Ms Ridley said at a press conference.
Is it any coincidence that we hear "Prisoner 650" had "lost her mind" and the fact that a U.S. state forensic examiner has found Dr. Siddiqui unfit mentally to stand trial? Those who know the judicial system know that is very rare to receive that diagnosis and escape, or be denied, trial. You have to be very, very mentally impaired for that to happen. How did this brilliant woman become a hallucinating ghost of a human being? What tortures did she endure? Was she Prisoner 650, raped repeatedly in a CIA prison? Recent events surely strengthen that hypothesis.

It sickens the heart and chills the soul to think that such things can happen, and that the country I live in helped perpetrate such crimes, and that the millions of citizens who inhabit this country would stand by and let this and equally horrific crimes go unanswered in court of justice or in the halls of its representative Congress.

"Murder will out," Shakespeare famously said. The tell-tale heart we read about in Edgar Allen Poe's famous story beats in us all, and the shards of a broken conscience are scattered across the landscape of our society's recovery. There will be no "change," they cry out, not until we have rendered justice and restored law, and taken our victims out of the torture pit, and tried to restore them to life.

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