Friday, October 17, 2014

Why Was Aafia Siddique's Appeal Withdrawn?

Scholar, teacher: Stripped Naked, Forced to Desecrate the Qur'an. Horrific Injustice. Why Was Aafia Siddique's Appeal Withdrawn? 

"With the attention and celebration that greeted the selection of Pakistan's Malala Yousafzai and India's Kailash Satyarthi for the world's most coveted peace prize, one would think that the American establishment has a special regard for young, accomplished (and committed) Muslim women. An honest review of the record would show that quite the opposite is true," writes Mauri Saalakhan of the Peace and Justice Foundation. "While Malala Yousafzai is being celebrated for her accomplishments and yet unfulfilled future potential, Aafia Siddique is wasting away in a maximum security prison cell on a military base in the land of 'liberty and justice for all!'"

On October 9, 2014, Dr. Aafia Siddique's family issued an announcement that US District Judge Richard Berman, without any warning, had ordered the case closed for the appeal of her conviction.

Aafia's sister, Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui told Al-Jazeera that she is convinced that "coercion tactics" were used to make her withdraw her appeal because according to their last communication, Aafia said she was "determined to fight her case."

 Dr. Aafia Siddique's

Aafia, who is being held in solitary confinement, has not been allowedphone calls to her family in Pakistan since initiating her appeal.

"We have not been allowed [in-person contact] with her at any time. There is a prison rule that she gets to speak to family for 300 minutes per month - as long as the family pays for the call. We did get that order, and the only time that was implemented was when there were worldwide demonstrations - at those times there were calls. But since filing the appeal they have kept Aafia completely incommunicado," stated her sister.

"This is not Aafia's decision. I know because my last conversation with her was that she was visited [in her dreams] by our prophet Muhammad, saw, and he was pleased with my efforts and the appeal. She said it is for this reason I consent,and if we don't connect again DO NOT believe any statement to the contrary on my behalf."

"Since then we have had absolutely no contact with her. I know she did not withdraw of her own free will. She has been coerced. God knows how much torture [she's been forced to endure], complete solitary and manipulations.... It horrifies me to even think about what she has been forced to go through."

Previous reports about her treatment at Carswell included stripping her naked and forcing her to walk on the Quran in order to be allowed to attend hearings - one reason she has held back from the appeal until receiving spiritual permission. Therefore it makes no sense that Aafia would withdraw her appeal now. She has nothing to lose by appealing.

Reuters reports that Aafia wrote a statement, "I refuse to participate in this system of total injustice that has punished and tortured me repeatedly, and continues to do so, without my having committed a crime." She wrote that she wanted to be sent home to Pakistan through diplomacy, not through the legal system.

The openly hostile judge, the very same judge who sentenced her in early 2010, is reported to have ordered the case closed. Even if the appeal had continued, he likely would have ruled against her, he said. The Nation, Pakistan, reported that US District Judge Richard Berman stated he had "allowed" Dr. Aafia Siddiqui to withdraw what could be the last appeal of her conviction on charges of attempted murder. Berman claimed that Siddiqui, who is serving an 86-year sentence in a prison medical centre in Texas, had 'clearly and unequivocally' stated her intent to end the appeal.

According to Salman Khan of the Free Aafia Movement, the ruling came as a shock as they had hoped that the application for a retrial would receive a fair judgment. Despite vehement attempts to protest his inclusion, he said they were unable to have him removed from proceedings.

"Just to reopen the trial costs $150,000, and then to remove him it would have cost us a further $100,000," Khan said.

In 2003, Aafia was wanted by the FBI for questioning for possible ties to al Qaeda and was detained by Pakistani authorities. This tiny woman was named as one of the FBI's most wanted "terrorists." She was handed over to US agents and held incommunicado in Afghanistan for five years.

Siddiqui was never charged with links to terrorism. The FBI agents, US soldiers and interpreters said that as they were about to interrogate her at an Afghan police compound in Ghazni, Afghanistan, she supposedly grabbed a rifle and began shooting at them. None of them were wounded, but she was shot in the abdomen when they "returned fire." At her trial, Aafia's lawyer argued that there was no evidence the rifle had been fired. No bullets, shell casings or bullet debris were recovered.

Before the US brought her captive to the US, Siddiqui's family says Aafia was raped and tortured at the US military's Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Aafia has become a popular figure in her home country of Pakistan, which has influenced a wide variety of Islamic fighting groups to attempt to win her release. It is hard to think of any other woman in the world who is so deeply loved by millions of people around the world.

In 2011, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan took a Swiss couple hostage and said they could be freed if Siddiqui were released. In Afghanistan, the Taliban asked for her release as part of a deal to free US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. ISIS proposed swapping American journalist James Foley for her, but the US refused and allowed his execution.

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