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183 Times is the Charm: The Accusation (by Torture) of a Young Mother Named Aafia Siddiqui

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NOTE: The post, below, is from June 2009. To see our most recent post on Aafia Siddiqui, published 1/19/2010, see:  The New American Justice: Aafia Siddiqui’s Trial by Water

HAS IT BEEN ONLY 317 YEARS?

From June through September of 1692, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging. Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft. Dozens languished in jail for months without trials. Then, almost as soon as it had begun, the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts ended. (“An Account of Events in Salem,” from the University of Missouri — Kansas City website)

The hunt was characterized by unrestrained torture and and an obsession with getting tortured witches to name other witches. (from Witch Hunts in Europe and America: An Encyclopedia, by William E. Burns)

"Water Torture" 16th century woodcut by Joos de Damhouder, illustrating how to interrogate witch suspects under torture

"The Water Torture" 16th century woodcut by Joos de Damhouder, illustrating how to interrogate witch suspects under torture

By now, most Americans — having heard the word “waterboarding” at least 183 times over the past month — seem to have grown immune to the visceral horrors attending to that particular techinque that the International Red Cross terms “suffocation by drowning.” We’ve surely grown immune to human suffering. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have reduced the topic of torture to a mere parlor game — an exercise in sophistry — as the left and the right mentally wrestle with questions whose answers have been known for centuries: Is waterboarding torture? Does torture ‘work’?

[Click here to read the rest of this introduction on U.S. policy and torture. Or just skip the intro entirely, and keep reading onward, into the stories of several individuals (with particular focus on Aafia Siddiqui) who have been falsely arrested, illegally imprisoned, “disappeared,” subjected to extraordinarily rendition and/or tortured over the past 8 years — and counting.]

An American Story

Imagine this: You are a 41 year-old man, a U.S. citizen, born in Kansas, an Army veteran, married with three children, practicing family law in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon; you pay your taxes on time, have never had a brush with the law. You are the quintessential “average American citizen.” Imagine, then, your surprise when the FBI descends on your home and fingers you as the mastermind of the 2004 Madrid train bombing that killed 191 people and injured over 2000. Your name is Brandon Mayfield, and it’s official: You have just been arrested as the mastermind in an international terrorist plot.

“But I haven’t left the country in over 10 years!” you protest. “And I’ve never even been to Spain! How could this happen?”

Turns out it was your fingerprint. The FBI’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) identified your fingerprint as a possible match to the one found on a plastic bag near the Madrid bombing. The match was then verified in quadruplicate by FBI fingerprint experts, which lent full credibility to the claim in their affidavit: “….the FBI lab stands by their conclusion of a 100 percent positive identification.” It was the fingerprint, see.

‘Lucky’ for you, your incarceration lasted only 2 weeks. The Spanish police identified the real mastermind (some guy from Algeria), prompting the FBI to dismiss the charges against you. In return, you file a a civil-rights lawsuit against the U.S. government. Herein, more facts emerge. Turns out, the Spanish police had already rejected the FBI’s identification of your fingerprint — twenty-three days before your arrest — as “conclusively negative.” Perhaps that would have been the end of that, if not for the smoking gun: you were also a Muslim convert.

Convinced of your guilt, the FBI spent those twenty-three days doggedly pursuing a case against you, with an intensity that the Spanish Police found perplexing. As one commissioner said, “It seemed as though they [the FBI] had something against him, and they wanted to involve us.” Lacking probable cause for search and seizure, the FBI turned to the nifty new provisions in the Patriot Act, which allowed them to entirely sidestep your Fourth Amendment rights, via “sneak and peak” warrants.

Turns out, you and your wife hadn’t been imagining things. Your door lock had been tampered; someone had been in your home. You were being watched. It was the FBI who, in your absence, snuck into your home, your office, and even the family farm in Kansas,“surreptitiously, photographing papers, downloading hard drives, and planting listening devices.”

But you were ‘lucky.’ You had, at your disposal, due process — stuff like habeas corpus, and an attorney to represent you in a U.S. court of law. Your case was fairly clear-cut, too. That is, once the facts were allowed to see the light of day. In the end, the FBI aplogized and you were awarded a $2 million settlement. And in 2007, a federal judge ruled that those nifty Patriot Act provisions used by the FBI to sneak into your home actually violated the U.S. Constitution.

2891436BG002_Ottawa_CitizenNow imagine that you are a 34-year old man — married, a father, a Canadian citizen for 17 years, Syrian-born. And, oh, a muslim. Imagine yourself going on vacation with your family to Tunisia in 2002 and, upon your return flight home to Canada, passing through the JFK airport in New York City. Here, you are detained in solitary confinement and interrogated for 12 days, then shackled and flown to Syria, where you are imprisoned inside a coffin-sized underground cell for 10 months + 10 days, being subjected throughout this time to beatings and torture sessions to extract information which the U.S. government is certain you own.

While you initially refuse to admit to something you didn’t do, the torture finally becomes so unbearable, that you will say anything to make it stop — up to and including making false confessions, admitting guilt to whatever terrorist acts your torturers accuse you. Your name is Maher Arar and — even as you are ultimately determined to be 100% innocent — your case is not as clear cut as Brandon Mayfield’s. You are, after all, a Canadian citizen. And, oh, a muslim of Arab descent.

Still, the facts of your case do eventually see the light of day. The Canadian government launches a Commission of Inquiry into your case and, in 2006 (three years after your release from your extraordinary rendition to Syria), you are cleared of all accusations. The Canadian government issues an official apology, and you are awarded a settlement of $10.5 million Canadian dollars. For their part, however, the U.S. government and the FBI refuse to extend an apology, official or otherwise (even as there were a few notable lawmakers of integrity on Capitol Hill who did issue personal apologies on behalf of the U.S. government).

[see also: Patrick Leahy’s interrogation of Gonzales on the Maher Arar case here, and the 1-1/2 hour video of the U.S. Congressional hearing on Maher Arar’s case here].

Seeking to clear your name, you file a lawsuit against the U.S. government for violating your civil rights. But the Bush Administration refuses to allow your case to come to trial, for reasons of “national security.” To this day, you are still on the U.S. terrorist watch list and are forbidden to enter the country.

The likelihood of your case going to trial in the U.S. is slim, as the Obama Administration has, so far, aligned itself with the Bush Administration, — having recently used the “state secrets” argument to deny trials to 5 other Bush Administration victims who were similarly flown to other countries to be tortured. According to Obama, the Bush Administration was right: allowing these innocent victims a trial could threaten national security.

Ibrahim JassamNow imagine this: You are a 31-year old man, an accredited freelance cameraman and photographer, working for Reuters in Iraq. On September 1, 2008,  U.S. forces, accompanied by dogs, storm your home in the middle of the night — breaking down your door, barking orders and terrifying the grandparents, children and grandchildren inside. You are taken into custody and thrown into jail, without charges. Three months pass. Still, no formal charges, no evidence, no due process.

In a stroke of democracy, the Iraqi central criminal court orders your release, for lack of evidence. The U.S. bars your release, however, saying you are a threat to Iraq security and stability. The protests of your family, of Reuters and international human rights and media rights groups fall on deaf ears. More months pass. To this day, you are still in jail, without charges. Your name is Ibrahim Jassam, and you are but one of  dozens of  journalists imprisoned — without charges — under the Bush Administration.

You are, so far, luckier than some. According to Reporters Without Borders,  hundreds of journalists have been killed in Iraq, with many more forced into exile, imprisoned or simply disappeared. Too, some have been imprisoned for much longer than you. Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, Bilal Hussein, for instance, was imprisoned for two years. Al Jazeera journalist, Sami al-Haj was imprisoned for over 7 years, with 6-1/2 of these years spent at Guantanamo, where America sends “the worst of the worst.”

A young boy hopes for the release of his father, Sami al-Haj -- a journalist and cameraman, better known to U.S. officials as Prisoner 345 at Guantanamo, where he spent 6-1/2 years without charges.

2007 photo: A young boy hoping for the release of his father, Sami al-Haj -- a journalist and cameraman, better known to U.S. officials as Prisoner 345 at Guantanamo, where he spent 6-1/2 years without charges.

[Here it must be said that Sami al-Haj’s story, alone, is evidence enough that our leaders and media should give pause to the Bush Administration’s “intelligence” that has effectively colored the entire population of 240 Guantanamo detainees — including those who have been long-pronounced innocent, but also those whose guilt was cemented under confessions extracted through torture — as a mix of terrorists and men so dangerous that they cannot safely be released anywhere on the planet Earth, much less allowed fair trials that would, in all likelihood, clear the names of some of these prisoners, the only “threat to national security” being that their trials would reveal the extent of the U.S. government’s tyranny.]

(video, above) Associated Press report (39 seconds long) on Bilal Hussein’s release in 2008, with footage of his reunion with his AP colleagues and his family

Both Bilal Hussein and Sami al-Haj were released  in 2008. Neither was ever charged with a crime, even as their incarcerations were justified by a series of shifting accusations, based on top secret evidence that, for national security reasons, could not be divulged: Bilal Hussein (see AP timeline of his case here) was accused, at one point, of being caught in possession of bomb-making materials, while Sami al-Haj was alternately accused of videotaping Osama bin Laden, sending money to suspicious Muslim charities, and arranging for the transport of a Stinger anti-aircraft system from Afghanistan to Chechnya. Despite these ludicrous accusations, in appears that these journalists were guilty of nothing more than practicing journalism.

Your name is Ibrahim Jassam, and you’ve been in jail for 9 months, without charges. Your misfortune is that you are being detained by the U.S. government. Had you been detained by, say, Iran you would have been afforded at least some semblance of due process — formal charges, an attorney, a trial, an appeals process. Had you been detained by, say, North Korea, your injustice would be given a voice in the U.S. media. Had you been arrested by anyone but the American government, you would be a poster child, of sorts, for media suppression under tyrannical regimes.

Your name is Ibrahim Jassam, and your story is almost, but not quite, unknown in America. According to your family, which has been allowed only a handful of visits, you used to be handsome. “But now he’s pale and he’s tired,” says your brother, describing one of these visits: “Every now and then while we were talking, he would start crying. He was begging me: ‘Please do something to get me out of here. I don’t know what is the charge against me.‘ I told him we already tried everything.”

Now imagine this: You are a 31-year old mother of three; you are also an MIT graduate with a PhD in cognitive neuroscience. [In hindsight, there is cruel irony to the topic of your dissertation, in which you explored how people learn — specifically, the interaction between visual memory and perception. In your abstract, you wrote, “Without a visible trail, it is difficult for the subject to form a picture or story.”] . It is late March of 2003. Just a few days earlier, the U.S. went to war in Iraq and — as is now known — the CIA, the FBI and the Bush Administration at large were working around the clock to put together the intelligence necessary to justifying this war.

Up until a year earlier, you’d spent 12 years living in America as a dual citizen of the U.S. and Pakistan. You’d originally moved to the U.S. in 1990 to attend college and be nearer your sister and brother — a Harvard-trained neurologist and a Houston architect, respectively. While living in the U.S., you married a medical student in Boston, who went on to work as an anesthesiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. You gave birth to 2 children. Neighbors and friends described you as a devoted mother, spending the bulk of your time in the everyday routines of raising your children, overseeing play groups with their friends. You were also a devout Muslim and donated both time and money to charitable causes and missionary work to help less fortunate Muslims.

Because contributing to Muslim charities constituted a red flag in post-9-11 American, the FBI was watching you and had been since the fall of 2001. According to U.S. intelligence sources, your husband purchased night goggles and body armor off the internet in 2001, which he claimed were intended for big game hunting. Because of these purchases, you, yourself, were brought in for questioning by U.S. officials.  Although you were released after questioning, this interrogation served as further evidence that the post-9-11 hostility toward Muslims was escalating. This factored into your decision to return to Pakistan — a debate that had already caused considerable strain in your marriage: you you wanted to raise your children in America, while your husband wanted to raise them in Pakistan. In 2002 — with your marriage now on the rocks — you and your husband returned to Pakistan.

By March of 2003, you’d been estranged from your husband for over 7 months, during which time you lived with your mother and gave birth to your third child, who was now 6 months old. Three months earlier, in December 2002, you’d returned to the United States to apply for jobs in the Baltimore area, where your sister was now working at Sinai Hospital. After making several applications — and interviewing with both Johns Hopkins and SUNY — you opened a post office box to receive replies from prospective employers, then returned to your children and your mother in Pakistan.

Now imagine that the FBI believes the only reason you opened that post office box was to receive communications as part of an al Qaeda plot to blow up gas stations and fuel tanks in the Baltimore area. Imagine, too, that during the course of the FBI’s 18-month surveillance of you and your husband, they discovered that, during the summer of 2001, one of your former Muslim acquaintances from Boston had been wired $20,000 from Saudi Arabia (a sum which, according to the explanation given by a Saudi official to the Boston Globe, was sent to pay for medical treatment for the man’s wife).  Lastly, imagine that, the FBI believes that this $20,000 is connected to a purported diamond smuggling trip, made by a mysterious woman in the summer of 2001, to fund al Qaeda operations. According to the FBI, that mystery woman is you.

To this story add water, then quickly spin

It is now March 28, 2003. Just a week earlier, on March 20th, the U.S. invaded Iraq. Several weeks earlier, on March 1st, the alleged architect of 9-11,  Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was captured. It seems that — during one of his 183 waterboard interrogation sessions — your name came up.

(continued page 2 —–>)

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What did the Bush Administration do with Aafia Siddiqui and her three children?

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NOTE: The post, below, is from August 2008. To see our most recent post on Aafia Siddiqui, published 1/19/2010, see:  The New American Justice: Aafia Siddiqui’s Trial by Water

An American Story

The disappearance and torture of Aafia Siddiqui at the hands of the U.S. government is also the story of a country that has lost its soul.

UPDATE: TO LEND YOUR VOICE TO HELPING WITH THIS CASE, SEE “CONTACT INFO” IN RED TEXT, BELOW, and OUR MORE RECENT POST ON AAFIA’S STORY.

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Aafia Siddiqui is but one of many human beings over the past 7 years who have been labeled as terrorists, then covertly ‘disappeared’ into a secret system of prisons, where they are systematically tortured by the agents of the Bush Administration — a government that can no longer lay claim to being quite human. Aafia’s story is particularly disturbing because, in 2003, along with Aafia, ‘disappeared’ her three young children, aged 7 years, 5 years and 6 months of age.
Massive protests have been waged in Pakistan, demanding the release of Afia Siddiqui and her children.
To those uninitiated with the torture practices (and the laws, or lack thereof, regarding torturing, including the torture of children) used by our government — whether at our own hands, or at the hands of those with whom we contract to carry out this torture — this story can perhaps be read with a comfortable detachment. To those of us who have studied the methods used by our government, and have read the stories of those who have — and who have not survived — the story of Aafia and her three children is unbearably haunting.
We cannot add more to her story than has already been published. We can, however, provide links to those stories. We can also add our voices to those who proclaim her innocence. After all, we live in a country where a person’s innocence is presumed, until they have proved otherwise. Or, at least, we once did. The Bush Administration has removed this right for any human deemed a terrorist suspect. For this reason, until our government restores the right of due process to “terrorist suspects” we, at the canarypapers, have taken the stance that our government must be presumed guilty, until proven otherwise.
And, lest any of us think we’re safe from those hands that would secretly imprison and torture innocent human beings, please know that, just by virture of our researching Aafia Siddiqui’s story, we at the canarypapers could legally be deemed terrorist sympathisers or even terrorist suspects. Fact is, our reading habits likely long ago placed us among the hundreds of thousands of Americans already on the FBI’s terrorist watch list. The Bush Administration would like us to believe that such truths belong to the realm of conspiracy theorists. Which leaves us but two choices: shall we resign ourselves to blind complacency or be banished to the minions of the conspiracy theorists? We choose the latter.

Were there nothing to hide, our government would not work in secrecy, would not hold suspects for years in secret prisons, torturing them to extract evidence, while denying their existence or, alternately, claiming the secrecy as ‘necessary’ to their investigation. Were there nothing to hide, our government would not discredit those who, in seeking the truth, ask questions of our government’s secret activities. Were our government not committing war crimes, there would be nothing to hide. We, at the canarypapers, join those who demand answers to the many questions about Aafia Siddiqui and her children. We hope that others will read her story and add their voices to the call for the truth.

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CONTACT INFO #1:

Call the Capitol Hill switchboard at (800) 828-0498

HOW TO: If you would like to help with this case, you can call your Senator/Representative via the above number to express your concern for the welfare of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakastani prisoner being held in a federal detention center in Brooklyn, NY. When you call the number, above you will reach a general operator. Ask, by name, for the office of your Senator/Representative. Once connected, you will either be able to leave a voice mail or leave your message with an assistant. (Alternately, you could locate email addresses for your representatives and/or phone their local offices. Snail mail may be too slow, due to the urgency of Aafia’s needs).

Five primary issues of importance to mention in your calls regarding the case of Aafia Siddiqui (pronounced: OFF-ia Sa-DEEK-ia) :

(1) She is in need medical care. According to her attorney, Aafia Siddiqui’s condition has grown critical. As of Tuesday, August 26, her condition was deteriorating, and her attorney is urging that she be admitted to a hospital,

(2) that Aafia Siddiqui’s 12-year old son (who is legally a U.S. citizen, and is said to be in U.S. custody in Afghanistan) be returned to the U.S., to the care of his uncle, in Texas,

(3) that an investigation be started immediately to determine the whereabouts of her other two children, now aged 9 years and 5 years of age,

(4) that Ms. Siddiqui be afforded the right of habeas corpus and be allowed unencumbered access to her attorneys, including the ability to have legal counsel without being strip-searched beforehand, and

(5) that an independent investigation be conducted to determine exactly where Aafoa Siddiqui has been for the past 5 years, and the role of the U.S. and Pakistani ISI in this case, as has been alleged by human right groups.

CONTACT INFO #2

LINK: Asian Human Rights Commission: URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

The Asia Human Rights Commission (AHRC) site at the above link has an Urgent Appeal Program, where you can direct letters (select from a pre-written letter, or customize/draft your own letter) to President George Bush and various officials in Afghanistan and Pakistan, urging them to immediately release Dr. Afia Siddiqui and her 12-year old child. The governments of Pakistan and the U.S. are also urged to reveal the whereabouts of her other two children. (The AHRC has written separate letters to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Question of Torture calling for intervention in this case.)

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LINKS FOR MORE INFO ON THIS CASE

The links, below, are listed in approx. chronological order, beginning with the April 2003 announcements of Aafia Siddiqui’s arrest (later denied by U.S. & Pakastani authorities) and ending with the July 2008 announcement of her arrest after her 5-year disappearance, during which time Aafia alleges she was imprisoned and subjected to horrendous torture and repeated rape at the hands of Pakastani and/or U.S. authorities while imprisoned at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan. As certain news articles have a way of ‘disappearing’ we have cut and paste the 2003 reports of her arrest:

2003
AP (Associated Press) article excerpt, April 22. 2003: Woman sought for ties to al-Qaida in custody in Pakistan Dateline: WASHINGTON A former Boston woman sought by the FBI for questioning about possible ties to the al-Qaida terror network is in custody in Pakistan, U.S. law enforcement officials said Tuesday.
Two officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Aafia Siddiqui, 31, was detained by Pakistani authorities in the past few days and was being interrogated at an undisclosed location. She originally is from Pakistan. The FBI in March put out a global alert for Siddiqui, who has a biology degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and wrote a doctoral thesis on neurological sciences at Brandeis University in 2001. She also visited the Maryland suburbs near …
USA Today: Pakistani woman in custody unlikely the one sought
WASHINGTON (AP) — After initial optimism Tuesday, U.S. law enforcement officials backed off claims that Pakistan had detained a former Boston woman wanted by the FBI for questioning about possible links to al-Qaeda. Two federal law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, initially said 31-year-old Aafia Siddiqui recently was taken into custody by Pakistani authorities. Pakistani officials never confirmed the arrest and later the U.S. officials amended their earlier statements, saying new information from the Pakistani government made it “doubtful” she was in custody. It was not clear whether a different woman had been arrested or if the initial information was wrong or misconstrued by U.S. officials. There had been several reports out of Pakistan prior to Tuesday claiming Siddiqui had been detained, but all turned out to be untrue. The U.S. officials said that while earlier reports never were given much credibility by federal authorities, Tuesday’s information at first appeared legitimate. The FBI in March put out a global alert for Siddiqui, who has a biology degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and wrote a doctoral thesis on neurological sciences at Brandeis University in 2001. She also visited the Maryland suburbs near Washington in December or January, officials say. Authorities have not charged that Siddiqui is a member of al-Qaeda but believe she could be a “fixer,” someone with knowledge of the United States who can support and help get things done for other operatives. She is not charged with any crime in the United States. The FBI also is seeking to question Siddiqui’s estranged husband, Dr. Mohammed Khan. His whereabouts are unknown. Alerts for Siddiqui and Khan followed the FBI’s announcement last month of a worldwide search for Adnan El Shukrijumah, a 27-year-old Saudi native nicknamed “Jafar the Pilot.” He lived for a number of years in South Florida and authorities believe he is an al-Qaeda operative who may have been planning new attacks. His family denies any terrorist ties and he has not been located.

UPI (United Press International) article excerpt, 4/22/2003: Report: First woman al-Qaida suspect detained: A woman with suspected links to al-Qaida has been arrested in Pakistan, NBC News reported Tuesday, although Pakistani officials said they didn’t know of any such arrest. Aafia Siddiqui, a former Boston resident, is wanted for questioning by the FBI. Her mother, Ismat Siddiqui, said her daughter disappeared from her hiding place in Karachi 10 days ago. She said that FBI and Pakistani officials she contacted told her that they had no information about their daughter’s whereabouts. Pakistan’s Interior Secretary Tasneem Noorani told United Press International that Pakistani authorities were not aware of …

2004
U.S. National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) website “Wanted” bulletin on Aafia Siddiqui
Boston Magazine, October 2004: Who’s Afraid of Aafia Siddiqui? She went to MIT and Brandeis, married a Brigham and Women’s physician, made her home in Boston, cared for her children, and raised money for charities. Aafia Siddiqui was a normal woman living a normal American life. Until the FBI called her a terror.
Daily Times (Pakistan) Nov. 1, 2004: The strange story of Aafia Siddiqui
2006

CommonDreams: 9/22/2006 Boston Globe article: Fate of Some CIA Detainees Still Unknown — Missing Boston woman among them, kin say.

2008

Asian Human Rights Commission: URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME (This human rights appeal was issued July 24, 2008. The publicity and outcry from this and other appeals is said to have prompted the FBI’s recent “discovery” and arrest of Aafia Siddiqui).

AafiaSiddiqui.com: This site includes a YouTube video of Al Jeezera news report on this case, which includes testimony by Aafia Siddiqui’s family.

US Dept. of Justice: Aafia Siddiqui Arrested for Attempting to Kill United States Officers in Afghanistan

FBI Bulletein on Aafia Siddiqui: Wanted/Seeking Information/In Custody

The Hindu: The mystery of Aafia Siddiqui A diamond-smuggling Al Qaeda operative or an innocent Pakistani woman whose only crime was her Islamic identity and her headscarf?

Asian Human Rights Commission’s August 4, 2004 article on Aafia’s ‘reappearance,’ as her arrest is announced by U.S. and Pakastani authorities): PAKISTAN: FBI is responsible for disappearances, illegal detention and torture. The American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), initially admitted that they had arrested Dr. Afia and then later denied it. Now, due to the coverage of the UA both in Pakistan and internationally, the FBI has now announced that “Dr. Afia Siddiqui is alive, she is in Afghanistan but she is injured”. No further details have been provided and the AHRC is especially concerned about the three children who were also abducted along with her. It is reported that after receiving hundreds of responses to the UA initiated by the AHRC, the American and Pakistani authorities were compelled to issue information of the whereabouts of Afia Siddiqui who had been missing for five years after being arrested by the Pakistani Intelligence Agency…..

YvonneRidley.org Hoover, the FBI, and Aafia Siddiqui. (British journalist Yvonne Ridley’s account of the story.) Ms. Ridley began investigating Aafia Siddiqui after hearing reports of a female prisoner, called Prisoner 650 at Afghanistan’s Bagram prison. According to reports, the Prisoner 650 had 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. In the course of Yvonne Ridley’s investigation, she came to call Prisoner 650 “the gray lady of Bagram.” As Ridley explained, “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.” Ridley’s investigation added to the outcry which is said to have prompted Aafia’s release and simultaneous “discovery” by U.S. and Pakastani authorities in July 2008).

LA Times: Siddiqui arrest brings attention to the ‘disappeared’ issue in Pakistan

Times Online UK: Female ‘terror’ scientist Aafia Siddiqui facing US court after extradition

Dawn.com: Aafia Siddiqui appears in US court, denied bail

Free Detainees.org: Aafia Siddiqui & Children

Asian Human Rights Commission: URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME: The US Congress must investigate Dr. Afia’s case (This human rights appeal was issued August 8, 2008, after Aafia was brought to the U.S. and her allegations and condition became better known).

Action in Solidarity with Asia and the Pacific: (series of three August 2008 articles on Aafia Siddiqui’s case)

Reuters: Pakistani accused of U.S. troop attack gets doctor (Reuters report on Aafia Siddiqui — a prisoner in U.S. care — as she finally receives medical care, 4 weeks after being shot in the abdomen).

YouTube, August 8, 2008: Protest in Pakistan includes Aafia Siddiqui’s sister. Protesters’ signs include one reading, “Can a 6-month old baby be a terrorist?”

YouTube, August 8, 2008: ABC propaganda news report, which makes the “official” case that Aafia Siddiqui is a terrorist, calling her “a female bin Laden,” with the CIA deeming this “the most significant capture in 5 years,” along with the ludicrous, inflammatory and totally unsubstantiated charges including one that she was “told by leaders to have lots of babies; raise little jihadists.” No attempt is made to substantiate these charges but, rather, a jubilantly shocking account is given of her case, with no attempt to fake concern or even make mention of the fate of 2 of Siddiqui’s children, aged 6 months and 5 years of age when they disappeared with their mother in 2003.

YouTube, August 12, 2008: Press Conference in Islamabad on the legal and human rights issues, along with the many unanswered questions in the Aafia Siddiqui case.

YouTube, August 12, 2008: Protest for Dr Aafia Saddiqui/Speech by Yvonne Ridley

UPDATES FROM AUGUST 24, 2008 ONWARD:

Associated Press of Pakistan (August 26, 2008): Lawyer demands Dr Aafia’s shifting to hospital for urgent treatment

Washington Post (August 26, 2008): Afghan Officials Detain American Boy, U.S. Says Mother Held by U.S. as Al-Qaeda Suspect

UPI: Al-Qaida suspect’s U.S. son held

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Links to Human Rights Reports that Discuss/Detail U.S. Involvement in Secret Detention, Renditions and Torture:

Amnesty International (pdf file): United States – Below the radar: Secret flights to torture and ‘disappearance’

Amnesty International (pdf file) Off the Record: U.S. Responsibility for Enforced Disappearances in the “War on Terror” There are 3 mentions of Aafia Siddiqui in this report

Amnesty International (pdf file): Pakistan: Human rights ignored in the “war on terror” In this report, Aafia Siddiqui is #33 on the list of “individuals about whom there is some evidence of secret detention by the United States and whose fate and whereabouts” were listed as unknown at the time of the report.

Human Rights First (pdf file): Still Missing: Gaps in the U.S. State Department Human Rights Reports on Secret Detentions and Renditions

Parliamentary Assembly, Council of Europe (pdf file): Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights: Alleged secret detentions and unlawful inter-state transfers involving Council of Europe member states

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We will add more links as time allows, particuarly links to assist with any activism to help ensure that Ms. Siddiqui is afforded the dignity of human rights and due process. A hearing is scheduled for September 3rd, so the timing is urgent. Please feel free to do your own research and to do whatever you can to help her.

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