Barbaric: 86-Year Sentence for Aafia Siddiqui

23.9.10

To be honest, I can hardly express sufficiently my shock at the news that Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani neuroscientist who was rendered to the US to face a trial after she reportedly tried — and failed — to shoot two US soldiers in Ghazni, Afghanistan in July 2008, has been sentenced to 86 years in prison.

Such a disproportionate sentence would be barbaric, even if Aafia Siddiqui had killed the soldiers she shot at, but as she missed entirely, and was herself shot twice in the abdomen, it simply doesn’t make sense. Moreover, the sentencing overlooks claims by her lawyers that her fingerprints were not even on the gun that she allegedly fired, and, even more significantly, hints at a chilling cover-up, mentioned everywhere except at Aafia’s trial earlier this year. Seen this way, her sudden reappearance in Ghazni in July 2008, the shooting incident, the trial and the conviction were designed to hide the fact that, for five years and four months, from March 2003, when she and her three children were reportedly kidnapped in Karachi, she was held in secret US detention — possibly in the US prison in Bagram, Afghanistan — where she was subjected to horrendous abuse.

The truth about Aafia’s story, as I have mentioned in previous articles here, here and here, is difficult to discern, but too many unanswered questions had already been brushed off before this vile sentence was delivered, which involve not only Aafia, but also two of her three children, Ahmed and Mariam, who only resurfaced last September, and in April this year. The whereabouts of Aafia’s third child, Suleiman, who was just a baby when Aafia first disappeared, has never been disclosed, and there are fears that he was killed when she was initially kidnapped.

As for Mariam, an article at the time of her reappearance stated that she “claim[ed] she was kept in a ‘cold, dark room’ for seven years,” allegedly in Bagram, and in late August 2008, Michael G. Garcia, the attorney general of the southern region of New York, “confirmed in a letter to Siddiqui’s sister, Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui, that her son, Ahmed, had been in the custody of the FBI since 2003 and that he was currently in the custody of the Karzai government in Afghanistan,” even though the US ambassador to Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson, had previously claimed that Washington “had no information regarding the children.” The article added that Ahmed was finally released to the custody of Siddiqui’s family in Pakistan in September 2009, and later “gave a statement to police in Lahore that he had been held in a juvenile prison in Afghanistan for years.”

Like everything in the story of Aafia Siddiqui, which remains, in many ways, the most opaque story in the whole of the “War on Terror,” it is difficult to say what is true and what is not, but these accounts, as well as eyewitness accounts from other prisoners, including the British resident and former Guantánamo prisoner Binyam Mohamed, who has stated that he saw Aafia in Bagram, serve only to demonstrate that, not only is an 86-year sentence the most abominable miscarriage of justice, but also that it meshes perfectly with the notion that this whole sad story is an enormous cover-up. As I asked six months ago:

If Aafia Siddiqui was indeed held in secret US custody for over five years, was the story of the attempted shooting of the US soldiers in July 2008 a cynical set-up, designed to ensure that she could be transferred to the US and tried, convicted and imprisoned without the true story coming to light?

For someone once touted as a significant al-Qaeda operative, it is, to say the least, convenient that she has been sentenced to 86 years in prison on charges that — beyond the prosecutors’ claim that she was an al-Qaeda supporter and a danger to the US — completely ignored her alleged role in al-Qaeda. The entire court case also avoided the valid presumption that, if she was indeed regarded as an al-Qaeda operative, it would not be surprising if, like many dozens of other “high-value detainees,” she suffered years of torture in US custody, and then, somehow, had to be disposed of.

While some of these prisoners ended up in Guantánamo, and others were stealthily delivered on one-way trips to prisons in their home countries, Aafia ended up in New York, rendered — there is no other word — from Afghanistan. And although she urged her supporters in court to remain calm today, telling them, “Don’t get angry. Forgive Judge Berman,” it may be that, in delivering what he referred to as an “appropriate” sentence of “significant incarceration,” Judge Richard Berman may have done just what the CIA wanted.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

As published on the Huffington Post. Cross-posted on The Smirking ChimpCageprisoners, The Muslim Justice InitiativeQuestion Everything, Global Voice for JusticeOne Heart for Peace, and New Left Project.

72 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    Jackson D asked:

    But why Zahid? Why would they do this? It just doesn’t make sense.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Zahid Khan replied:

    They would do this to cover up the crimes they committed during her detention. They don’t want her to reveal the horrible facts about her sudden disappearance to avoid the wrath of American public.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    VictorPurinton wrote:

    The whole thing is strange. What motive would the US have to kidnap and torture an innocent woman? I have never read even a plausible story as to what might have happened, so the 86 years makes it look like there’s something we don’t know. But the author seems to know a lot more than I do, since he is certain that this is a miscarriage of justice.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    JacksonD replied:

    Victor, this is what I don’t get. I don’t know what to think. Why would the government want to kidnap her for years and then set her up on trumped up charges? I’ve read several comments elsewhere saying that she was raped and tortured but in searching, I keep seeing it referenced but nothing that comes down to anything substantial.

    There’s something going on here and while I’m not buying that she’s some innocent little thing in the wrong place at the wrong time, I don’t necessarily believe that she was some female al Qaeda mastermind.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    MikeDu wrote:

    U.S. has always had a ‘throw away the keys’ mentality. it was Bill Clinton who helped introduce the ‘3 strikes’ law in the U.S. where a person can find himself facing life in prison for stealing a loaf of bread. Congress imposed draconian ‘mandatory minimum’ sentencing straightjackets on court judges. No punishment is ever seen to be enough. 10 year sentence on an eighty year old? Give him 20! Cop shows regularly crack jokes about endemic prison rape as they handcuff prisoners. The U.S. justice system is like the U.S. healthcare system — we *imagine* it’s far more just and equitable than it really is.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Firbolg wrote:

    Whatever lies behind the case – and it must be obvious from similar cases that the truth is unlikely to emerge in our lifetimes – and even if her conviction of being an al-Qaeda operative is correct, the effect of her sentence and the lack of explanation of how she arrived in Afghanistan and the intervening five years since she and her family disappeared in Karachi is working against the US.
    Supported by the Pakistan Prime Minister, rioters are on the streets in Pakistan demanding her release and repatriation. This in a country that we claim to see as a strategic ally and where, before this incident, only 17% had a favorable view of the US.
    To the disinterested observer it would appear that there are people with influence in and who could throw further light on such events who are instead looking for ways to keep animosity towards the US festering by any means possible.

  7. Jamal London says...

    It makes me very sad that there are many people who have at least slight suspicions about Aafia Siddiqui, including even journalists, human beings that they are. (There are also those who would plant misinformation, or coerce people in order to mislead). But EVERYONE PLEASE forget about the spectre of ‘al-qaida’, and put it this way, are you giving credibility to the official side, the side that originally said that they had Aafia when she went missing in 2003, and then denied that they had her. The side that had contradictory witness testimonies in the trial. The side that are known to have wrongly detained innocents and have had to release them. The side that practice questionable interrogation techniques on human beings they SUSPECT. Yes, aafia was a SUSPECT maybe (and it’s easy to be one), but NO, she was NEVER A TERRORIST (a gentle woman and mother of three kids, turns super terrorist – yeah right!!).
    I would rather believe Aafia’s family, and people like Yvonne Ridley, and Aafia. WOULDN’T YOU!
    (And what happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty’, or is it ‘guilty until proven innocent’? -“The rules of the game have changed”, and so have many of us, it seems). Thank you.

  8. Fred says...

    If the US simply wanted to keep her from telling her story, she would have been killed. I think they want her alive to see if they can finish what they started, which George Orwell called “the obliteration of the self.” So, they have to keep her breathing and in hell, without being able to get her story out. I’ll leave it up to others to speculate on how they will try to accomplish this. I doubt she’ll be released, although they might raise her hopes once in a while, so they can be dashed. The injustice will help the “Islamic”-terror-choreographers recruit new cannon fodder, and keep the “war on terror” going.

    If they can destroy her, they can do it to the vast majority of people, and that is their goal: to destroy mankind forever, to eradicate mankind’s higher self from the world and create an “animal planet.” The “war on terror” is intended to destroy civilization so that what Michael Ledeen called “universal fascism” can be erected on its ashes, with the intent of creating a world order that literally drives the human self out of the world. (This is their goal, but they’ve tried and failed before. Hopefully, exposing them will help to destroy their plans.) Aafia Siddiqui is being used, perhaps because she is intelligent and strong-willed, and has children, to develop techniques for this purpose which would be incorporated into this new world order:

    [O’Brien]: Do you [Winston Smith] begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating? It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery is torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself. Progress in our world will be progress towards more pain. The old civilizations claimed that they were founded on love or justice. Ours is founded upon hatred. In our world there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph, and self-abasement. from 1984 by George Orwell

  9. Nuts and Dolts » Secret trials and Torture programs - A P2Blogs Partner Site says...

    […] After all, we are prosecuting Omar Khadr at Guantanamo Bay for war crimes.  We did sentence Dr. Aafia Siddiqui to 86 years in prison, that is after torturing her for several years.  Who knows what we did to […]

  10. WikiLeaks: Numerous Reasons to Dismiss US Claims that “Ghost Prisoner” Aafia Siddiqui Was Not Held in Bagram + Bring Aafia Home « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] to the United States, where she was put on trial for attempted murder, and was convicted and given an 86-year prison sentence in September this […]

  11. Aafia Siddiqui’s Lawyer: “She was Detained for Five Years in a Black Site” and “Forced to Create Documents to Incriminate Herself” « Peace and Justice Post says...

    […] Elaine Whitfield Sharp, the lawyer for Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani neuroscientist whose 86-year sentence in a New York courtroom last September — for allegedly trying and failing to shoot at her US […]

  12. Aafia Siddiqui's Black Site says...

    […] […]

  13. Compelling New Evidence About Aafia Siddiqui’s Detention by the ISI, and Her Rigged Trial in the US « Eurasia Review says...

    […] Regular readers will know that I have long been concerned by the case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani neuroscientist whose story is one of the murkiest in the whole of the “War on Terror.” Dr. Siddiqui disappeared with her three children in Karachi in March 2003, and for five years neither the US nor the Pakistani authorities acknowledged holding her, even though she was reportedly seen in the US prison at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan. In July 2008, she mysteriously reappeared in Ghazni, Afghanistan, where she was arrested for behaving strangely, and then reportedly tried to shoot at a number of US soldiers, but only ended up being shot herself. She was then rendered to the US, where she was put on trial in New York for the alleged incident in Ghazni, and not for any of the al-Qaeda allegations that had been put forward during her lost years, and where, last September, she received an 86-year sentence. […]

  14. Compelling New Evidence About Aafia Siddiqui’s Detention by the ISI, and Her Rigged Trial in the US « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] Regular readers will know that I have long been concerned by the case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani neuroscientist whose story is one of the murkiest in the whole of the “War on Terror.” Dr. Siddiqui disappeared with her three children in Karachi in March 2003, and for five years neither the US nor the Pakistani authorities acknowledged holding her, even though she was reportedly seen in the US prison at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan. In July 2008, she mysteriously reappeared in Ghazni, Afghanistan, where she was arrested for behaving strangely, and then reportedly tried to shoot at a number of US soldiers, but only ended up being shot herself. She was then rendered to the US, where she was put on trial in New York for the alleged incident in Ghazni, and not for any of the al-Qaeda allegations that had been put forward during her lost years, and where, last September, she received an 86-year sentence. […]

  15. Compelling New Evidence About Aafia Siddiqui’s Detention by the ISI, and Her Rigged Trial in the US By Andy Worthington | Sailan Muslim - The Online Resource for Sri Lanka Muslims says...

    […] Regular readers will know that I have long been concerned by the case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani neuroscientist whose story is one of the murkiest in the whole of the “War on Terror.” Dr. Siddiqui disappeared with her three children in Karachi in March 2003, and for five years neither the US nor the Pakistani authorities acknowledged holding her, even though she was reportedly seen in the US prison at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan. In July 2008, she mysteriously reappeared in Ghazni, Afghanistan, where she was arrested for behaving strangely, and then reportedly tried to shoot at a number of US soldiers, but only ended up being shot herself. She was then rendered to the US, where she was put on trial in New York for the alleged incident in Ghazni, and not for any of the al-Qaeda allegations that had been put forward during her lost years, and where, last September, she received an 86-year sentence. […]

  16. Andy Worthington and Omar Deghayes Discuss Aafia Siddiqui in East London, Saturday February 23, 2013 – AlHittin.com says...

    […] the sentence was first delivered, I wrote an article entitled, “Barbaric: 86-Year Sentence for Aafia Siddiqui,” and I have made several appearances at events since (see here, here, here and here), as […]

  17. Compelling New Evidence About Aafia Siddiqui’s Detention by the ISI, and Her Rigged Trial in the US | Dandelion Salad says...

    […] Regular readers will know that I have long been concerned by the case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani neuroscientist whose story is one of the murkiest in the whole of the “War on Terror.” Dr. Siddiqui disappeared with her three children in Karachi in March 2003, and for five years neither the US nor the Pakistani authorities acknowledged holding her, even though she was reportedly seen in the US prison at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan. In July 2008, she mysteriously reappeared in Ghazni, Afghanistan, where she was arrested for behaving strangely, and then reportedly tried to shoot at a number of US soldiers, but only ended up being shot herself. She was then rendered to the US, where she was put on trial in New York for the alleged incident in Ghazni, and not for any of the al-Qaeda allegations that had been put forward during her lost years, and where, last September, she received an 86-year sentence. […]

  18. ibn Abdullah says...

    You have to know that Siddiqui Has to tell something very important: The truth! US American democRATS Are Not intressted in that to keep up their way of life. So they gurantee that she was locked up her whole life. This is western understanding of demoCRAZY

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the comments, Ibn Abdullah.

  20. Where is Aafia Siddiqui? Was she tortured in US prisons? Why has no one seen her in a year in the prison in Texas where she has been? | Eslkevin's Blog says...

    […] Barbaric: 86-Year Sentence for Aafia Siddiqui | Andy … […]

  21. Rallies Worldwide to Mark the 9th Anniversary of the Disappearance of Aafia Siddiqui – Justice for Aafia Coalition says...

    […] be well, although her mental health was not considered to be an issue worthy of scrutiny, she was sentenced to 86 years in prison, which she is serving in a notorious psychiatric prison, FMC Carswell, in Texas. Please click on […]

  22. Andy Worthington and Omar Deghayes Discuss Aafia Siddiqui in East London, Saturday February 23, 2013 – Justice for Aafia Coalition says...

    […] the sentence was first delivered, I wrote an article entitled, “Barbaric: 86-Year Sentence for Aafia Siddiqui,” and I have made several appearances at events since (see here, here, here and here), as […]

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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