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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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Aafia Siddiqui and Her 3 Children: Victims to an America that has lost its soul

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Aafia, You Are Not Alone

Aafia, You Are Not Alone

The post, below, is from September 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

UPDATED: If ever the official version of a story did not pass the smell test, it is the case of Aafia Siddiqui. The canarypapers recently published two posts on this case (on August 25th and  on August 29th) in an effort to urge protest against her mistreatment, to urge due process and proper medical care, and to spread what little is known of the facts regarding her case. Here, we offer updates on this case, as made available in the media and various web sites. We are also re-posting information to add your voice to those who are (1) urging a Congressional investigation into the facts of this case, (2) demanding proper legal rights, medical care and humane treatement for Aafia, and (3) demanding an investigation into the whereabout of Aafia’s two children, who are still missing, and demanding the return of her third child — 11-year-old Ahmed, who is a U.S. citizen — to her family, as he has been in the custody of Afghanistan intelligence officials for over one month now.

UPDATES: New links added 9/4/08 at bottom of post; new information in green text hroughout post.

UPDATE: New links added 9/8/08 at bottom of post in purple text.

UPDATE: New links added 9/19/08 at the bottom of the post in blue text.

Aafia Siddiqui’s son, Mohammad Ahmed, was finally released this week into the custody of his aunt, Dr. Fauzia Siddiqui. She described him to be traumatized, afraid and mentally disturbed, but in good health. He has so far given no details on his experiences while in custody. This is according to a Dawn Media Group story. The accounts in U.S. papers (e.g. NY Times, Washington Post) are deplorably inaccurate — for instance, suggesting the boy was Aafia Siddiqui’s ADOPTED son, despite well-publicized DNA tests to the contrary. This story continues to be heart-wrenching for the utter dearth of factual truth, and for the media perpetuation, without even a modicum of journalistic curiosity, of the myths in this case. The very real human tragedy of this story has yet to be told.

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Here’s how each of us can help Aafia Siddiqui and her children:

(1) Demand a Congressional investigation into this case by calling your Capitol Hill representatives via the Capitol Hill switchboard at 800-828-0498. Ask for your state representative, by name. You will be transferred to either voice mail or an aide. Leave a message that you, as a concerned American, want (1) an independent Congressional investigation into the case of Aafia Siddiqui (pronounced AUF-ia    Sa-DEEK-ia) and her three children, and that (2) you request that her current medical and legal needs be met according to U.S. and International laws regarding prisoners.

(2) Sign and send the letters of protest at the Asian Human Rights Commission site. These letters are forwarded to President Bush, to NATO headquarters, and to various authorities in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is important that these officials know the world’s eyes are focused on this case.

(3) Attend her court hearing in Manhattan on September 3rd, 2008. Protests are scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. Her hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. at the United States District Court (U.S.D.C.) for the Southern District of New York (S.D.N.Y), located at 500 Pearl Street, Manhattan. It will be held in the Magistrates Court, 5th floor. Siddiqui refused to appear at this hearing, as she refused to undergo the pain and degradation of the requisite full-body strip-search. Her lawyers and court-appointed psychologist have requested she be transferred to a “less restrictive setting where she would not be subjected to strip searches and where she could receive more extensive (medical) care.” Judge Berman set a deadline of Friday, Sept. 12 for the defense to brief this issue, Wednesday Sept. 17 for the prosecution, with the next court appearance on Monday, Sept. 22. We will give more information on this as it becomes available.

(4) Send mail, publications or money to Aafia Siddiqui. There are specific regulations regarding these, which can be found, along with contact information and addresses, at the muslimmatters.org website. There is also contact information for her attorney at this site. NOTE: According to a September 1, 2008 report, Aafia is due to soon be transferred to a “better facility” where she will supposedly receive proper medical care. We will update this information as it becomes available.

See the bottom of this post for media updates on the Aafia Siddiqui case

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QUESTION AND ANSWER: Is the writer of this post “anti-American” or pro-terrorism? No. I am pro-human rights, and I am in favor of both due process and the protections provided by the Geneva Convention and (formerly) the U.S. Constitution, as I will explain:

In reading, it has come to my attention that, by making “anti-American” statements in my writings on the Aafia Siddiqui case, I may be promoting the agenda that I am (1) anti-American, and/or (2) in favor of a terrorist suspect attempting to murder U.S officials, Nothing could be further from the truth. First, I write as a U.S.-born, caucasion citizen, a enlightened and spiritual human being with no religious affiliation whatsoever, In fact, my own spirituality precludes identification with any organized religion, as I abhor the long history of violence generated from the divisiveness that seems inherent between religions. I have never met, nor spoken with, or corresponded in any way with a Muslim or any representative of any one from the Muslim community.  In the same breath, I add that I am not afraid of Muslims, the same as I am not inherently afraid of any person, based on their race, creed, religion, ethnicity or nationality. I am not a champion of Muslim causes, per se, except in cases, such as the Aafia Siddiqui case, where human rights are being grossly violated under the Geneva Convention, the U.S. Constitution and the basic common tenets that we should all hold in common, as human beings.

I write as an American citizen who is profoundly saddened, alarmed and, ultimately afraid of the loss of these basic human rights through the Bush Administration’s flagrant disregard of these rights. I would, and I do, extend the same concern and outrage to any trampled citizen of the earth, no matter their race, creed, ethnic origin, or location on the map.  The Aafia Siddiqui case is but one such example. HIstory has shown that — throughout the world, and even withn the U.S. — over-reaching power, when driven by fear and a disregard for establised law, is a dangerous combination. Nazi Germany is one of the most notorious examples, but plenty of precedent exists on U.S. soil: slavery, ethnic cleansing of Native Americans, the Tuskegee experiment, the Jim Crow era, Japanese internment camps, the McCarthy hearings, and the current xenophobia (hatred/fear) toward Muslims that seeks to paint them all with the “Islamic terrorist” paint brush, thereby justifying a certain persecution of them, and a certain bending of their constitutional rights. There are many in the U.S. who feel that we have come dangerously close over the past 8 years to re-living a similar history to Nazi Germany through the over-reaching abuse of power, under the banner of “the war on terror.” Conversely, that the viewpoint of many Americans is fear-driven (much of this by the administration’s design) and are ignorant of the facts (also by design) has only allowed this abuse of power to flourish. It is a fact, not a conspiracy theory, that this administration has employed duplicity, lies, misinformation and propaganda to promote their lawlessness and to, indeed, prod the American people to condone and cheer on this lawlessness, in the name of doing “whatever it takes” to keep us safe.

We, at the canarypapers, find special exception in the case of Aafia Siddiqui. Here, we have a “terrorist suspect” who is accused of acts which she vehemently denies and, instead, claims that she has been imprisoned and tortured for the past 5 years, more than likely at the hands of U.S. officials in Afghanistan. Her physical, mental and emotional condition easily support this claim, as do the investigations of human rights organizations throughout the world. In this, we must — absolutely must — consider the alternative to the “official” version of her story: What if Aafia Siddiqui is telling the truth? WHAT IF Aafia Siddiqui is telling the truth? As stands — and by virtue of the built-in lack of due process for terrorist suspects — the chance of this truth seeing the light of day is slim. As fellow human beings, we must — absolutely must — demand due process and an independent and/or Congressional investigation into this case.

If we — as American citizens — have become so estranged from our humanity, our better selves, that we would condone persecuting another human being out of a fear and anger so great, that we give ourselves authority to presume the facts, rather than allow their proper discovery, then we have become like those very terrorists we claim to abhor. If we believe that it is fair for an innocent human being to be punished for the actions of others, then we are no different from those very terrorists we claim to abhor. If, in writing on Aafia Siddiqui, I have — in any way — seemed to embrace anti-Americanism, or a terrorist agenda, or have promoted a xenophobia of the Muslim community, it has not been my intention. In fighting for a just America — an America that adheres to both constitutional and international laws and treaties regarding human rights — I believe that I am fighting for the America envisioned by our founders, over 200 years ago, which is a very patriotic and American thing to do. My stance on the Aafia Siddiqui case is mine, alone, and has been influenced by no individual or group, beyond the Aafia Siddiqui, herself, as known to me by the research I have conducted on her case.

We, at the canarypapers, continue to allege, along with her family, her attorneys, human rights groups and many concerned individuals around the world that Aafia Siddiqui is a victim of the Bush Administration’s over-reaching “war on terror” that has secretly and illegally imprisoned and tortured hundreds, if not thousands of citizens around the world. We also allege, against the official versions given on this case, that Aafia Siddiqui was indeed arrested in April 2003, as then-reported (and later denied) by Pakistani and U.S. authorities/the FBI. We further allege that she spent the following 5+ years imprisoned and tortured, with most or all of those years spent in the United States’ notorious Bagram prison in Afghanistan, which serves a similar function to Guantanamo Bay, only without the facade of adhering to international laws regarding torture.

Pakistani Protesters Demonstrate on August 29th to Show Solidarity with Aafia Siddiqui

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If this case is “for real” how come most of us have never heard of it before?

The events and questions surrounding Aafia Siddiqui’s case have received little press in the U.S. media  — a deplorable oversight, given — if nothing else — her deplorable treatment in U.S. custody at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, NY. Her case is well known, however, in other parts of the world, especially her native country of Pakistan, where citizens have been gathering by the thousands for months now — demanding the release of Aafia and her 3 children from their secret detention. Her case is also well-known to human rights groups around the world, all of whom have reported for several years now, “credible evidence” that she was been held in secret detention facilities by U.S. and ally authorities, most likely in Afghanistan. Her case is also well-known by her own family, who has spent the past 5 years fighting for the truth on her disappearance, even as Aafia’s mother was threatened by Afghani authorities, at the time of Aafia’s disappearance in 2003, and warned to not make a case of her disappearance (the implication being that harm could come to Aafia and her children if the silence was not held).

Aafia’s case was also known to other prisoners at Bagram — by those “lucky” ones who didn’t die at the hands of their captors, or who were later deemed innocent and released after days, months or years of torture. One such “lucky” captor, held at both Bagram and Guantanamo, lived to write a book, in which he detailed the story of Prisoner 650. His story captured the attention of British journalist, Yvonne Ridley — a former “terrorist suspect” herself, who was imprisoned for a short time at Bagram. Earlier this summer, Ms. Ridley investigated Prisoner 650, who came to be known as “the grey lady of Bagram,” for the haunting screams of a woman being tortured in a prison that  — according to the FBI and the CIA — did not detain females. In the wake of Yvonne Ridley’s investigation, the public outcry over Aafia Siddiqui’s imprisonment grew overwheleming. Soon thereafter, she mysteriously re-appeared on a street in Afghanistan and was promply arrested — allegedly carring in her purse an arsenal of chemical and biological weapons and maps to NYC landmarks.  The offical versions between the Afghani and U.S. authorities widely contradict each other, particularly regarding the events that led to Aafia being shot several times in the abdomen.

Over 4,000 Demonstrate in Pakistan in a Show of Solidarity with Aafia Siddiqui

Over 4,000 Demonstrate in Pakistan in a Show of Solidarity with Aafia Siddiqui

The power of protest and why it’s our duty, as American citizens, to do this

If not for the protests of the many concerned individuals and groups, Aafia Siddqui might still be in Bagram. One would think that she might at least receive humane treatment, once on U.S. soil. Not so. She has been denied medical treatment, on the grounds that she is a “security risk” and despite that, according to her attorneys, her condition has being both frail and deterioating, with her wound oozing blood. She has been denied proper medical despite the urging of the Pakistani consulate, her attorneys and her family. It is our duty as fellow human beings and American citizens to continue the outcry. Demand that Aafia be allowed due legal process; demand that she be afforded proper medical care; demand that an independent investigation be conducted to determine the facts about her case; demand that her 12 year-old child, Ahmed, who is a U.S. citizen, be released from Afghan custody; demand an investigation into the whereabout of her other two children — her daughter, Miriam, and her son, Suleman — aged 5 years and 6 months, respectively, at the time of their disappearance in 2003.

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UPDATE: Aafia Siddiqui’s court hearing was yet another sad turn in this case, as she refused to attend the hearing — the same as she has refused meetings with her attorneys — solely to avoid the pain and degradation of the invasive, full-body strip searches she is required to undergo before these meetings.
According to one article, Siddiqui’s lawyers and the court-appointed psychologist have requested she be transferred to a “less restrictive setting where she would not be subjected to strip searches and where she could receive more extensive care.” Judge Berman set a deadline of Friday, Sept. 12 for the defense to brief this issue, Wednesday Sept. 17 for the prosecution, with the next court appearance on Monday, Sept. 22. Aafia’s attorney, Elizabeth Fink, continues to claim, as stated in her letter released this past Wednesday, that Aafia Siddiqui was held by the United States following her 2003 disappearance. Fink wrote that The Washington Post told her of “reliable sources in both the American and Pakistani government who have verified” that Siddiqui was held, first by Pakistani intelligence in 2003, and subsequently by the CIA. The Post declined to comment.

According to prison staff, Aafia spends most of her time in the cell crying, a description eerily similar to the accounts written about Prisoner 650, “the grey lady of Bagram,” who was described in exactly the same terms. Aafia is also reported to be terrified for her three children, and terrified that her 11-year-old son, in the custody of Afghani intelligence officials, is being denied food. Despite repeated requests by her attorneys, and repeated orders by judges in the case, Aafia continues to be denied medical care for her injuries, and continues to be denied psychological care, including a mental health evaluation by a therapist trained in evaluating torture victims. Aafia Siddiqui has fallen through the cracks of international law, and has fallen through the safety net of a U.S. Constitution unraveled by this administration. These facts speak for themselves as much as the speak for the truth that her case is proving to be a worst-case scenario — a case that proves, regardless of its outcome, the consequences of removing the checks and balances from the tenets of human justice. No human being should be allowed to endure the suffering of this particular hell. (see the updated links in green, below)

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A Disclaimer, of sorts, regarding the facts of the Aafia Siddiqui case

We’re no amateurs at researching the goings-on by the Bush Administration. If we’ve learned anything over the past 8 years, it’s that this administration excels in disseminating disinformation. This disinformation is then served up to the American public as if it were news, when, in fact, it’s little more than a PR campaign to promote their various agendas: propaganda, by definition. Under these circumstances, fact-finding becomes an onerous task. One cannot take, on face-value, the offical accounts as given by our government, but must wade through a convuluted trail of (past and present-day) government and congressional documents, reports and investigations, along with independent investigations, individual accounts, and media reports & investigations — most of these drawn from select media outlets elsewhere in the world, where information and perspectives tend to be more factual. Doing this type of research over time, one develops a sixth-sense: something is just not right here; this does not pass the smell test.

As any one who’s ever concoted a big lie could tell you, it’s difficult to maintain a watertight case. Over time, the loose ends begin to fray. Things start to leak. The bigger the lie, the more complicated and, ultimately impossible it becomes to keep the lies straight. As my mother used to say, “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”

While this administration excels at disinformation, deception and outright lies (while discrediting their detractors, via the ‘conspiracy theorist’ or ‘terrorist appeaser’ labels) they are fairly sorry at covering their asses. To this end, when they can’t discredit the facts/fact-finders, they will alternately resort to more lies, resort to defamation of character, resort to withholding answers behind a cloak of “security reasons,” and so on. As a last resort, as we’ve recently seen with Karl Rove, they will simply thumb their noses at the Congress and the American public. Because of these things — not to mention that both our President and Vice-President have been accused of myriad war crimes and have been brought up on charges of impeachment for these crimes, all of which were born from sytematic campaigns of lies and duplicity about supposed terrorist activities around the world —  we tend to err on the side not believing the offical statements issued by this administration, particularly regarding their ‘intelligence’ on terrorism and terrorist suspects.  The way we see it, if the Bush-Cheney Administration can cook the intelligence to deceive this country into going to war with Iraq, it would surely be a snap to do the same for an individual human being — which is exactly what many allege this administration has done to hundreds, if not thousands of human beings throughout the world since September 11, 2001.

With the above caveats in mind, we can state with utter certainty that, in our research of the Aafia Siddiaui case, we find that the “official” accounts do not pass the smell test. In recent weeks, we’ve seen various “new” information crop up, bolstering the terrorist charges waged by this administration’s against Aafia Siddiqui: money trails, alleged contacts, her travels, etc. After researching these allegations, we’ve chosen to not provide links to them, as we find no credible evidence to support these allegations, beyond the say-so of anonymous “U.S. officials.”

The fact is (and, if you’ll read/listen carefully to the news, you’ll see that this is true) nearly all of the accusations waged by the U.S. against other countries and individuals in this unholy war on terror have been sourced from un-named “U.S. officials,” nearly always speaking only on the condition of anonymity, usually for ‘security reasons.’ Our belief — and we believe history will one day bear this out — is that each and every official statement quoted by un-named or anonymous “U.S. officials,” (aka White House sources, military analysts, Pentagon spokesmen, etc. ,etc.) was originally sourced from none other than the Grand Poo-Bah, himself: Dick Cheney, the man behind the curtain in Emerald City.

Our own facts about the Aafia Siddiqui case — arrived at through careful research and deliberation — may be imperfect (Is her son 11 or 12 years of age? Is her mother living or not? Where were Affia and her three children before their disappearance in 2003 — en route to her uncles’ house, or in hiding from the FBI’s terrorist alert against her?) Alternately, our facts may be dead-on accurate. One thing for certain: the Bush Adminsistraton did a particularly poor job of covering their asses in this case. Of all the reports and incidents we’ve researched over the past 7 years, the official version of Aafia Siddiqui’s case has been the most convoluted,  the most contradictory, the most gap-filled, the most deception-filled, the most suspicious and, ultimately, the most tragic case we’ve seen.

Worst-case scenario, if she is indeed guilty of any of the charges waged against her, she deserves a thorough, independent investigation into these charges and to the imprisonment and torture she alleges she suffered over the past five years. She deserves the basic human rights afforded by international treaties: the right to due legal process, the right to proper medical care, the right to know what happened to her children who, at the ages of 7 years, 5 years and 6 months were surely not deserving of whatever treatment has since befallen them.

Feel free to question our facts on Aafia Siddiqui. As always, we’re proud of the research we do, and are glad to share it with others.

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LINKS TO MORE RECENT NEWS REPORTS ON THIS CASE:

PakTribune: September 1, 2008 – Dr Aafia to be shifted to better facility soon: US authorities have indicated to the Pakistan government that Dr Aafia Siddiqui, who is suffering from bullet wounds, will be shifted to another facility by next week, which is less intrusive and offers better medical care.

RadianceViewsWeekly: September 1, 2008 – Musharraf’s Nemesis: What luck for rulers that men do not think, said Adolf Hitler. The Fuhrer should know, having proved himself a successful, if rather demented, leader of men. Successive rulers of Islamic Republic of Pakistan seem to have been driven by this cynical piece of wisdom….. Perhaps, Musharraf could have gone on and hung on in there for some more time, if only he had not so enthusiastically enlisted Pakistan in Bush’s war. Maybe our man had no option but jump on the neocon bandwagon when Colin Powell made that rather persuasive call on a cold day in September, the day the greatest military power on earth was shaken to its roots. Maybe it has spared Pakistan the fate of Afghanistan and brought it billions in US aid.   But what the country has gained by joining this directionless, disastrous war is nothing compared to what it has lost. Thousands of innocents have paid with their lives for the Bush-Mush war. And God only knows how many individuals like Dr Aafia Siddiqui, the MIT-educated scientist, have simply disappeared into the nameless gulags around the world. And the whole country, coupled with Afghanistan, has been transformed into a vast battlefield; the main front of the war that, we are reassured, is being fought for the promotion of Democracy and Human Freedom, whatever that means.

NewsPostOnline: September 1, 2008 – Boy found with “terrorist suspect” Dr. Aafia is her son, but denies: Ahmed, the 11-year-old boy said to have been apprehended along with ‘terror suspect’ Pakistani-American doctor Aafia Siddiqui was identified as her son, although he denies that he is in any way related to her.

(Editor’s note: A reminder: this 11 year-old boy is legally a U.S. citizen. He was arrested with his mother in mid-July. International law forbids treating children as criminals, yet he has been interrogated serveral times by the FBI and has been held in the custody of Afghan’s intelligence service for the past month. Knowing that the U.S. does not necessarily bar torturing the children of terrorist suspects, in order to gain information (see video below), it is haunting to contemplate the circumstances that would lead to an 11 year-old boy to deny being related to hs own mother, while yet being unable to give details on his ‘real’ family.)

ThaindianNews: August 31, 2008 – Afghan Government to Free Pakistan Terror Suspect Dr. Aafia’s Son Soon: After repeated requests from Islamabad, the Afghanistan Government has reportedly promised to Pakistan to return soon one of the three sons of Pakistani scientist and terror suspect Dr Aafia Siddiqui, who was arrested in Afghanistan earlier this month and presently being tried in the US for terror charges. The New York-based human rights body the Human Rights Watch had also urged the Afghan government earlier this week to free the child, who is said to be a US citizen by birth.

AFP: August 30, 2008- Afghanistan will free son of Pakistani scientist ‘soon’:  The young son of Pakistani scientist Aafia Siddiqui will be returned to his family “soon” by Afghanistan after he was arrested with her more than a month ago, Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta said Saturday.

Two letters from Aafia Siddiqui’s uncle, written in 2004: These two letters are said to be written by Dr. Aafia’s maternal uncle, published in Dawn daily English newspaper, Karachi, Pakistan in 2004. These letters offer a detailed timeline of this case, according to her uncle.

UPDATE: New links added 9/4/08

Daily Times: Aafia Siddiqui refuses to appear in court, in protest -Dr Aafia Siddiqui refused to appear in a New York court on Thursday in protest against the humiliating treatment to which she is being subjected and because of her traumatised physical, mental and emotional condition.

Voice of America: Mystery Shrouds Case of Pakistani Scientist Linked to Terrorists – A Pakistani woman who is charged with trying to murder U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan refused to appear for her arraignment in New York City Thursday. Defense lawyers say Aafia Siddiqui is unable or unwilling to submit to a required strip-search due to wounds she suffered when she was arrested nearly two months ago and that she urgently needs medical and psychological care. VOA’s Walter Wisniewski has more.

Washington Post: Pakistani Tortured, Her Attorney Says Lawyer Calls for Mental Evaluation — Lawyer Elizabeth Fink told a federal judge in New York that Aafia Siddiqui, who disappeared in Pakistan with her three children in March 2003, needs a full psychological evaluation to determine whether she has post-traumatic stress disorder and is competent to help in her own defense. Fink also urged that Siddiqui, 36, be examined by experts on the effects of torture.

Press Trust of India: Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, suspected of having links with al-Qaeda, would plead innocent to the charges of attempted murder of US personnel during interrogation in Afghanistan in July, her lawyer said.

TheNewsAfghan Government Contacts Aafia’s Sister (Sept. 1, 2008) The government of Afghanistan contacted the family of Dr Aafia Siddiqui late on Sunday night and assured Aafia’s sister that they were ready to hand over her 11-year old son Ahmed Siddiqui to the family.

The Muslim News: Alleged al-Qa’ida suspect denied medical treatment (August 29, 2008)  Wheelchair-bound and only able to communicate with her lawyer through a hole at the bottom of her cell door, Dr Aafia Siddiqui is a ghost of the vibrant woman she was six years ago, and looks a far cry from the stark picture painted by US authorities as the vicious al-Qa’ida suspect charged with assault with a deadly weapon and attempted murder on FBI officers while in custody.

NDTV Pak-born U.S. scientist’s hearing deferred (September 5, 2008) The indictment hearing of Pakistan-born US scientist Aafia Siddiqui, with suspected links to Al-Qaida, was postponed as she refused to be strip searched. The 36-year-old neuroscientist has been charged with trying to kill the American interrogators after her arrest in Afghanistan. She was expected to plead innocence to the charges. But Aafia could not be brought to court as she refused to be strip searched, which is mandatory while moving prisoners from lock up to court.

Office of the High Commisioner for Human Rights (UNHSHR): THE GENEVA CONVENTION Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War

LINKS ADDED 9/8/08:

GEO TV: Pakistan seeks repatriation of 5 Pakistani held in Guantanamo

Daily Times: Six Pakistani women have fuelled international headlines in the past week. Five of them are the hapless victims of the grotesque live burial that took place in rural Balochistan earlier this month, punished for going against tribal tradition and flouting the will of the men for whom they were mere chattel. The sixth is Dr Aafia Siddiqui, the MIT-trained Pakistani neuroscientist who was recently indicted in a court in New York “for attempting to murder and assault US nationals” while incarcerated at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

LINKS ADDED 9/19/08:

Daily Times – Pakistan (9/14/2008): Asian Human Rights Commission slams detention of Dr. Aafia’s son (Editor’s note: This story was written 1 day before the release of Aafia Siddiqui’s son, as detailed in accounts, below)

Washington Post: Family Frees Son of Pakistani-Al Qaeda Suspect (Editor’s note: Reading this article, the lack of journalistic curiosity in this case is both puzzling and deplorable.That this paper perpetuates the myth that Aafia’s son, Mohammad Ahmed, was adopted — despite well-publicized DNA tests to the contrary — and that his name is Ali Hassan, despite well-publicized records to the contrary, reads more like complicity with the criminal activities of U.S. officials than an account written by the independent media in a supposed democracy.)

New York Times: Afghans Repatriate Son, 12, of Pakistani Indicted in U.S. (Editor’s note: Again, a deplorable lack of journalistic curiosity to report on a case that is so riddled with inconsistencies, that it reads like jibberish. Note also that they persist in calling him Ali Hassan, despite that his name is Mohammad Ahmed).

LA Times: Afghanistan frees son of alleged ally of al Qaeda (Editor’s note: Again, a profound lack of journalistic integrity to this story)

International Tribune: Son of al Qaida suspect returned to Pakistan (Editor’s note: ditto the above, although there are a few additonal details included, concerning the name change)

BBC: Detainee’s son handed to Pakistan (Editor’s note: Finally a story that appers to be mostly factual and actually calls the boy by his correct name.)

Associated Press: Afghanistan frees son of al Qaida suspect (Editor’s note: again, another account riddled with inconsistencies, not the least of which is calling Mohammad Ahmed by the name Ali Hassan, one of several name changes given to him by Afghani authorities. What a farce)

Counterpunch: The Horrendous Case of Aafia Siddiqui: Where Are Her Children?

Asian Pacific Post: Family Fear Siddiqui’s Death

DAWN: Aafia’s Son Freed by Kabul, Flown to Islamabad

DAWN: Aafia Siddiqui suffering from psychosis

Arab News: Afghanistan frees son of Pak scientist held by US

Daily Times – Pakistan (editorial) Periscope: The Wrong Side of Right

Daily Times – Pakistan: Pak Senators Refused Access to Guantanamo Detainees, Granted Permission to See Aafia Siddiqui

The International News: Chid of Conflict

Ohmy News: Aafia Siddiqui’s Son Released to his Aunt — Pakistani rights activist lauds deposed top judge for taking up issue

Online International News Network: Fauzia Siddiqui refuses to allow media to talk to Aafia’s son:

ISLAMABAD: Dr. Fauzia Siddiqui sister of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui has refused to allow media to talk to Ahmad Siddiqui son of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui saying that he was yet in a state of shock.
While talking to Private TV Channel she expressed Ahmad’s profound happiness on return of Ahmad Siddiqui and said that Aafia’s son name was changed many times. “Though, Ahmad had matured but he was mentally disturbed, therefore, Ahmad cannot be allowed to talk to media, “ She maintained. In response to a question she said that Ahmad Siddiqui would be shifted from Islamabad within two or three days and government was also assisting them in this connection. She also thanked the government for making efforts for return of Ahmad Siddiqui, and expressed her gratitude to media, civil societies and people for projecting the issue, hoping that Dr. Aafia Siddiqui would soon return to Pakistan along with her two other children. Similarly, in letter addressed to President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, Interior Minister and other officials she has thanked them for helping Siddiqui family at all fronts.
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Could the Bush Administration Order the Torture of Children and Burying Alive of Prisoners?

A simple yes or no would have sufficed. In this House Judiciary Hearing, White House attorneys John Yoo and David Addington are asked this very question, to determine the administration’s torture policies regarding children and burying prisoners alive.  Yoo and Addington are the two leading architects of the Bush administration’s policies on torture. Their testimony revealed few answers (none, actually), as even the simplest questions yielded evasive sleights-of-hand maneuvers, such as the sort of ‘legal speak’ lawyers are known to employ when evading answering a question. Here, with a 5-minute time limit on the testimony, we see the Judiciary committee members grow increasingly frustrated and, at turns, outraged (accusing Yoo, at one point, of playing “Beat the Clock”) as each attempt to get a straight answer is stonewalled by Yoo and Addington.  Longer versions of this testimony are available on YouTube.

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by Mantis Katz, for the canarypapers

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