Wednesday, September 22, 2010

[wvns] NYC Thursday: Sentencing of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui

Press Release: The Sentencing of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui

SHAWWAL 1431 A.H. (September 22, 2010)

Sentencing for Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and Press Conference to follow
Manhattan, NY –– A mobilization for Dr. Aafia Siddiqui will convene Thursday, September 23, at 8:00 AM, outside the federal court located at 500 Pearl Street, in lower Manhattan. At 9:00 supporters will enter Judge Berman's Court, Room 21D, for Dr. Siddiqui's sentencing.

Dr. Aafia Siddiqui is a Pakistani national who was kidnapped from the streets of Pakistan, with her three young children (all victims of rendition), in March 2003. Aafia spent the next five years (2003-2008) as a secretly held prisoner at one or more U.S. controlled detention centers overseas. In July 2008 Dr. Siddiqui mysteriously reappeared on the streets of Ghazni, Afghanistan, in a weakened and disheveled state, only to be re-arrested, gravely injured by gunfire, and subsequently brought to the United States to stand trial for allegedly attempting to "murder U.S. personnel" in Afghanistan.

Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was convicted earlier this year, and faces the possibility of 30 years to life when she is sentenced on Thursday, September 23. Both supporters and objective, non-partisan observers are convinced that she is innocent of all charges.

Schedule for Thursday, September 23:

8:00 a.m.: Assemble outside the court house, 500 Pearl Street, Manhattan, NYC
9:00 a.m.: Enter the court house for Dr. Siddiqui's sentencing
Immediately following the sentencing: Press Conference and Rally in Foley Square

Additional background

Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, 38, came to the United States from Pakistan as an 18 year old student. She is a brilliant social scientist (and committed Muslim), with degrees from MIT and Brandeis University. Two of her three children are U.S. born citizens.

In March 2003, while on a visit to her family's home in Karachi, Pakistan, she and her three young children set off for a visit with a maternal uncle in Islamabad. They never made it. While enroute to the airport the taxi they were riding in was stopped by agents unknown, they were forceably removed and then made to disappear.

It is believed that Aafia and her children were arrested by Pakistani agents (accompanied by one or more American agents), and later turned over to the U.S government to become secretly held prisoners overseas (from 2003 to 2008). Witness testimony and strong circumstantial evidence suggests that Aafia was subjected to both physical and psychological torture during this period. Reportedly, her cries of agony - while she was held at the Bagram base in Afghanistan - were so haunting that prisoners went on a hunger strike in protest.

In July 2008, Aafia was mysteriously released (in a weakened and disheveled state) onto the streets of Afghanistan, and then re-arrested as a suspicious person who might be a suicide bomber. While awaiting interrogation at a police compound Aafia was shot, and after emergency treatment she was transported half dead to the U.S. to stand trial.

Despite the U.S. government's earlier suspicions/allegations of her being an alleged "facilitator for al-Qaeda," she eventually was charged with attempting to murder U.S. personnel in Afghanistan. (There was not one terrorism charge in the indictment!)

Despite the material evidence in Aafia's favor, and despite the inconsistent testimony of government witnesses, the jury found Dr. Aafia Siddiqui guilty on all counts. (It should also be noted that the court barred any testimony on Aafia's whereabouts and/or treatment during her missing years, 2003-2008!)

Aafia's oldest son was returned to his family in 2008; the daughter was left on the doorstep of the family a few months ago (2010); the youngest child, Suleman, is still missing to this day.

Another point of significant import to the supporters of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui is the following: While the media has devoted a huge amount of attention to the plight of three imprisoned American hikers in Iran, and the recent release of one, Sarah Schord, 31 – who by all accounts was treated well during her imprisonment in demonized Iran – the plight of a Muslim woman who has suffered years of torture at the hands of American authorities has received no sympathetic (nor even investigative coverage) by western mainstream media!


Condemned By Their Silence
By Yvonne Ridley

September 21, 2010 "Information Clearing House" -- - There are literally millions of people across the world who are now involved in the intriguing case of Dr Aafia Siddiqui and they fall in to several categories.

The first is a huge army of ordinary people of faith and no faith who represent many different nationalities and their aim is to see justice and fair play delivered to Aafia.

The second is a small, but on the surface of it, more powerful group of individuals who are ruthlessly ambitious; prepared to manipulate the truth and openly lie to elevate their own position to the detriment of others and Aafia in particular.

These are numerous in the Pakistan government, past and present, as well as the last two US administrations and includes the dark forces at play which support them as well as the coterie of smooth-talking diplomats and ambassadors who tread the corridors of power.

Then there are the others – perhaps the most despicable group of all who are what I call fence sitters and spectators. The great Irish philosopher Edmund Burke once said that evil would only triumph if good people sat back and did nothing, and he was right.

With few exceptions the larger Muslim organizations have remained uncharacteristically quiet about Aafia's case.

Why have they been muzzled? Correction. Why have they allowed themselves to be muzzled? To their eternal shame they have remained silent about the plight of Dr Aafia Siddiqui because they have been duped by an officially-sanctioned unofficial whispering campaign.

The rule is simple brothers (and sisters), comrades, friends and campaigners. If something is wrong it is wrong, entirely wrong and in Aafia's case there is something wrong about the kidnap, torture and rendition of a brilliant academic and her three children.

The fence sitters in the US are a disgrace. Men without courage or backbone are more to be pitied, I suppose as cowardice is a dreadful affliction in the battlefield that is life.

A yellow streak down the spine makes people look the other way, blinkers their vision and forces them to adopt an Ostrich position. This makes it all the more easy for hate preachers like Pastor Jones in Florida to emerge and threaten to burn the Holy Qur'an.

But Edmund Burke was right when he said evil will triumph if good people sit back and do nothing. The leaders of the organizations I've mentioned are good people but they are frightened and I pray that one day they will get the courage they so desperately need to stand up and be counted.

And in these troubled times it does take courage to stand up against an arrogant, bullying, intimidating political machine which brought words like kidnap, torture, rendition, water-boarding and extra-judicial killings in to daily use.

Just a few hours remain before the resumption of a trial in a New York court which is being presided over by Judge Richard Berman. To his eternal shame he is one who has remained silent about the manner and style with which Dr Aafia Siddiqui was presented in his court.

How the hell can a Pakistani citizen who allegedly committed a crime in Afghanistan be tried in his court without an official extradition procedure at the very least? Why did he not demand that the paperwork was at least in order? He has presided over a mis-trial from the outset.

While he deemed the defendant mentally fit to stand trial but not mentally capable of determining her own legal team. Whenever Dr Aafia Siddiqui – a brilliant neuro scientist bordering on genius by the way – attempted to sack her lawyers he refused her request saying she wasn't mentally fit to make the decision. You can't have it both ways, Your Honour.

Judge Berman has alas, so far, remained silent about the private – behind closed door meetings – he has had with the Pakistan Ambassador Hossein Haqqani. Another good reason for a mistrial if only the legal team had the backbone to challenge the judge in his court.

The trouble is so-called `Dream Team' lawyers Charlie Swift and Linda Moreno's very lucrative two million dollar trial was being paid for by the Pakistan Government, making Mr Haqqani the overall client. Hmm, how does that one work when the Pakistan government colluded in the first place with the US intelligence agencies to kidnap Dr Aafia Siddiqui and her three children from the streets of Karachi in March 2003? Another reason to declare a mis-trial.

And what of the ubiquitous Mr Haqqani? He's not a career diplomat. In fact, he holds US citizenship or has aspirations to making him a very peculiar choice as Pakistan's man in Washington. Once his foray into the world of diplomacy comes to an end he'll resume his career as a lecturer in America, something [of which] his US controllers remind him on a regular basis.

His Excellency has certainly been a busy little bee with regards Dr Aafia's case … briefing some of my colleagues in the western media telling them `off-the-record' what a bad woman she is!

Just recently his cover was blown when he refused the very excellent female politician Cynthia McKinney a visa to Pakistan. Cynthia was part of an international delegation due to travel to Islamabad to raise concerns about the case with the government there.

Mr Haqqani, who thinks nothing of giving visas to Blackwater guns-for-hire and mercenaries heading to the fresh killing fields of Pakistan saw fit to stop the former US Congresswoman from travelling there.

He squirmed and wriggled after being hoisted by his own petard, but like a worm impaled firmly on a fishhook of his own making, he could not escape the humiliating exposure of his duplicitous behaviour.

If he has been briefing against Dr Aafia Siddiqui all this time, one can only imagine what nonsense he filled in Judge Richard Berman's head during their private meetings. In any other country this sort of revelation would be a career wrecker for both men, but justice is the US is a strange beast.

(Yes, this is a serious allegation to make and I would have asked the judge personally, but he has banned me from using his fax and phone! Hilarious really, when you consider he has no legal jurisdiction in London, where I live. Obviously he thinks if he can hold a trial on a crime allegedly committed in Afghanistan, he can have me renditioned and charged with contempt of court.)

But let's get back to Dr Aafia's case which has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with protecting the names and reputations of a collective of men and women in the US and Pakistan – from presidents past and present to lesser politicians and their craven diplomats.

And if it means sacrificing one Dr Aafia Siddiqui on the fire of their burning ambitions then these ruthless people have shown they are more than capable of doing it.

What you have to decide now is if you are a fence sitter or a fighter for justice.

Doing the right thing isn't always easy but there is a growing army of ordinary people out there who will continue to campaign for justice for Aafia.

We will not be silent – nor will we throw in the towel after Thursday. That is when our campaigning will really begin.

In the interests of justice, commonsense and decency let all concerned bring an end to this farce now and reunite this innocent mother with her family.

* Yvonne Ridley is President of European branch of the International Muslim Women's Union and a patron of Cageprisoners.
Bravo, Sr. Yvonne. I couldn't have said it better! What follows is an excellent statement by Imam Talib Abdur Rashid - MS



Dear Brothers and Sisters in Islam:

As-Salaamu 'Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakaatuhu

Below please find the flier for mobilization for our sister Aafia Siddiqui, as well as a press release from The Peace thru Justice Foundation. This gathering is supported by me in my capacity as the Imam of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood, as well as by the organizations The Majlis Ash-Shura of NY and the Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA).

Anyone familiar with the circumstances of this sister's case cannot help but be moved by the injustice rendered unto her. It's important not only that we come out and support her with our physical presence ( Insha'Allah I will be there), but to make du'a for her as for all victims of injustice. And yes, I share the realization that she is indeed a political prisoner being held on trumped up charges. Allah asks us "...And why should you not fight in the cause of those who being weak, are ill-treated and oppressed?"

Brothers and sisters who are not necessarily involved in activist work and struggle always ask me, "What can I do?" Well, Allah's Messenger (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said to us that "Whomsoever relieves a believer of a distress, Allah will relieve him (or her) of a distress", and the meaning of relief according to the scholars is doing what one can to alleviate the believer's distress and suffering, and this includes making du'a for him or her, and all of us can do that.

So those who can't come out for whatever reason, make du'a at least as this is powerful and real, for there is no strength nor power except in Allah The Exalted, The Magnificent, amin. May Allah (swt) forgive our sins and protect our sister Aafia and us all, during these difficult times. Insha'Allah I hope to see you there.

Yours in Service to Allah,
Al-Hajj Talib 'Abdur-Rashid
Imam, The Mosque of islamic Brotherhood Inc.
2nd Vice President, The Majlis Ash-Shura of NY
Deputy Amir, MANA



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