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Demand repatriation for Dr. Aafia Siddiqui

Published Aug 13, 2010 10:32 AM

An international campaign has been launched demanding the repatriation of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui to her homeland of Pakistan. Siddiqui is being held in a federal prison in New York City awaiting sentencing, which is currently scheduled for Sept. 23.

Dr. Aafia Siddiqui

In March 2003, at the age of 30, Siddiqui disappeared along with her three children from a street in Karachi, Pakistan. At the end of that month, the Pakistan media reported that Siddiqui had been arrested and turned over to U.S. officials.

Siddiqui mysteriously reappeared on the streets of Ghazni, Afghanistan, following five years of secret detention. There she was immediately rearrested, shot and almost killed. After emergency treatment, she was brought to the United States and held in solitary confinement for almost two years before being placed on trial before a federal court in New York City.

The government charges were preposterous. Siddiqui had supposedly been first arrested not in 2003 but in July 2008, five years after her disappearance. U.S. authorities claim that when their military personnel went to interrogate her after the arrest, Siddiqui grabbed a U.S. soldier’s M-4 assault rifle, fired off two rounds and was shot while being subdued.

Questions of how the bullets supposedly fired by Siddiqui failed to hit a single one of the 20 to 30 people in the small, crowded room, or hit any wall or floor, or leave any residue or fingerprints were never answered. Witness testimonies often contradicted their earlier sworn statements and the testimonies of others. The prosecution urged the jury to ignore science and irrefutable facts and believe the contradictory testimony of U.S. Special Forces soldiers and FBI agents. In the current intense climate of fear over “national security,” the jury found her guilty of assaulting and attempting to murder her U.S. interrogators.

Siddiqui’s missing son, Ahmed, was reunited with his aunt in late 2008, while her daughter, Maryum, was dropped near the aunt’s home in Karachi in April, after she had been missing for seven years. Siddiqui’s youngest child, Suleman, who would now be about 7 years old, remains missing and is feared dead.

There have been massive demonstrations in Pakistan’s major cities demanding the return of this 38-year-old mother, now dubbed the “daughter of Pakistan.” There is already immense international outrage about her case. Siddiqui has repeatedly maintained in court appearances that she was tortured while in U.S. custody.

Siddiqui’s five years in secret detention in Pakistan and Afghanistan, her grievous injuries, her two years in solitary confinement in the U.S. and her trial in New York City have been top news in Pakistan. Civil rights, religious and women’s organizations have marched and petitioned, demanding the U.S. allow her to return to Pakistan.

Dr. Fauzia Siddiqui, her younger sister, in stressing the urgency of a campaign for Aafia Siddiqui’s repatriation, explains that under U.S. law a foreigner tried by a U.S. court can be repatriated to the country of his or her nationality on the request of that government before the pronouncement of a sentence. She says there are 19 such precedents in which prisoners, after indictment, were repatriated to their countries at the request of their respective governments.

Dr. Aafia Siddiqui is neither a U.S. citizen nor a permanent resident. She had only one passport, issued by the Pakistani government.

Siddiqui has not been charged with committing any crime on U.S. soil. Therefore she should not have been extradited to the U.S. for trial but either tried in Afghanistan or extradited to Pakistan. She was not charged with terrorism nor with injuring or harming anyone anywhere. She is a victim of terrible, life-threatening injuries.

The Pakistani government should insist through diplomatic channels on Siddiqui’s repatriation. Based on overwhelming Pakistani sentiment for Siddiqui’s return, the U.S. government should grant this humanitarian request.

Petitions demanding Siddiqui’s repatriation, directed to President Barack Obama and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, as well as the media, will be delivered on Aug. 14 — Pakistan Independence Day — to the Pakistan Mission to the United Nations. To sign the petition, visit iacenter.org.