Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Aafia Siddiqui Was Part Of al-Qaeda Sleeper Cell: Says Pakistan Government

Ibrahim Sajid Malick

A message from The Embassy of Pakistan in Washington DC expressed dismay “over the unexpected verdict of the jury in Dr. Aafia Siddiqui case in a NY District Court,” yesterday and committed all support to “provide justice to her as a Pakistani citizen.”

But the integrity of this message is clearly questionable because a representative of the Pakistan Embassy who attended part of the proceedings and interacted with defense lawyers told several journalists that she was part of al-Qaeda’s sleeper cell.

When questioned why didn’t the prosecution chose not to pursue those charges, he responded that “she was part of al-Qaeda sleeper cell. This would have compromised how they gather intelligence.”

When asked how he knows that she was part of al-Qaeda Mr. Asif said he had a meeting with the Director of the FBI in 2008. “Ambassador Haqqani met with the FBI director and I was in that meeting. They told us they will not pursue terrorism charges because it will expose sophisticated intelligence gathering techniques.”

The Pakistani government continues to claim at the highest level that they are sincerely helping Dr. Aafia Siddiqui but that does not reconcile with their actions.

Yesterday we also learned that the Government of Pakistan had put a gag order on Dr. Siddiqui’s family as a pre-condition to release her son, Ahmed.

Defense attorney Elaine Sharp yesterday told us that a gag order was placed on the family by the Government of Pakistan, who made this a pre-condition for the release of the oldest child Ahmed. This is why no one from the family has been able to talk openly about what may have happened to her and her children for 5 years.

Many legal observers have questioned if there was a conflict of interest in the Government of Pakistan paying for the defense when they themselves are implicated in her kidnapping.

A message from Mr. Nadeem Kayani, press attaché for the Government of Pakistan in Washington DC said his government: “made intense diplomatic and legal efforts on her behalf and will consult the family of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and the team of defense Lawyers to determine the future course of action. The Government will do all that is needed to provide justice to her as a Pakistani citizen.”

The Pakistani government has been giving the impression that intense legal and diplomatic efforts were underway to secure the release of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, but there was little sign of those efforts in the courtroom where she was on trial for attempted murder.

In a recent statement to the media, Interior Minister Rehmen Malik stated that Zardari had “taken up” the issue of her release with Robert Gates.

However the U.S. Government’s Justice Department spared no expense in trying to ensure that Siddiqui spends her life in prison.

The US Government had a team of their best prosecuting attorney’s working on the case. There had been as many as 8-10 Government attorneys seen conferring about the case during the trial. They had been aggressive throughout, filing every motion possible to secure a conviction.

The U.S Government also brought two Afghan nationals to America even giving one permanent immigration status and money to establish himself in the U.S.

Moreover, the Pakistan Government was not even able to ensure that her family and attorneys had free and open access to her. Nor were they able to stop the humiliating strip searches that Siddiqui had endure every day of the trial.

Federal Judge, Richard Berman, ruled on the side of the prosecution in nearly every motion. One of the most surprising was when he allowed statements that Dr. Siddiqui made while at a hospital in Bagram to be used against her although she had not been “Mirandized” This refers to the Miranda Laws that direct law enforcement officials to identify themselves to an arrested individual and to advise that individual of their rights, including the right an attorney.

This ruling came a day after Pakistani Ambassador Hussain Haqqani, had a private meeting with Judge Richard Berman and attorneys from both sides, which he described as “positive”.

Dr. Siddiqui was not only “not Mirandized”, but she also had all 4 limbs tied to a bed, was recovering from surgery, on heavy medication, sleep deprived, and most importantly under 24 hour surveillance by FBI officials who failed to identify themselves as such when she made the alleged statements.

According to Siddiqui one of the FBI officials “tortured” her and thus she did not speak to him at all. The other, a female agent, pretended to be her friend. These are the same agents who testified against her in the trial. Despite that, Siddiqui was able to give context to the statements she made and continued to maintain her innocence.

Judge Berman, also sustained a majority of prosecution objections and overruled a majority of defense objections; even those that follow normal standards of jurisprudence. Although Siddiqui was not on trial for terrorism, the judge allowed innuendo and questioning that suggested exactly that.

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