Yesterday, Cageprisoners, the British NGO that works to raise awareness of the plight of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and other detainees held as part of the “War on Terror,” announced that it had “helped spearhead roundtable talks with senior members of the Pakistan government over the repatriation of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui,” the Pakistani neuroscientist, who was recently given an 86-year prison sentence in the US for attempted murder, after a trial in New York, ad is now held in a notorious psychiatric prison in Texas, Carswell, where many inmates have died, and reports of abuse are rife.
Despite the verdict, Dr. Siddiqui is widely regarded as a former CIA “ghost prisoner,” whose “capture” in Afghanistan in July 2008 (where she reportedly tried — and failed — to shoot two US soldiers before being shot herself) and subsequent rendition to the US were arranged so that she could be consigned to oblivion in a US prison after what was little more than a show trial, in which all disussion of her missing five years — and the missing years of two of her three children, who disappeared with her — was prohibited. I have written about Aafia Siddiqui’s case extensively this year, most recently in my article, Wikileaks: Numerous Reasons to Dismiss US Claims that “Ghost Prisoner” Aafia Siddiqui Was Not Held in Bagram, and it appears to me that securing her repatriation — as the Justice for Aafia Coalition has also been pressing for — is the best way forward.
In a press release, Cageprisoners stated that it has “completed the first round of discussions with the Pakistan Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, in Islamabad,” and added, “The landmark meeting, which also involved the sister of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui, involved key discussions and ideas to work towards her return. At the meeting the Minister agreed to make a formal written request to the US State Department for the repatriation of Dr. Aafia.”
Cageprisoners also explained that it “will be working on avenues to help the government seek the return of Dr. Aafia as the organisation believes it is crucial that she be returned to Pakistan as soon as possible.”
Cageprisoners Board member, Saghir Hussain, who travelled from London a few days ago to take part in the crucial meeting, said:
The Pakistani people’s reaction to the continued incarceration has become a major issue in relations between the US and Pakistan. The US government needs to be made aware that her continued detention will be an impediment to their wider strategic goals in that region Therefore, we believe that the US government could be persuaded to return Aafia to Pakistan if the request came from the highest echelons of the civil and military establishment.
Note: See here for a Press TV report about the discussions regarding Aafia Siddiqui’s possible repatriation, featuring Saghir Hussain, and, as I mentioned in my last post about Aafia, please — if this case moves you at all — send a card or letter to Aafia, to let her know that she has not been forgotten, and to ensure that those responsible for her — in a facility called the Federal Medical Center in Carswell, Texas, which has a terrible reputation for violence and abuse — know that the outside world is watching. Readers can also use the resources on this page on the Justice For Aafia Coalition’s website to ask senior US and Pakistani officials to secure her repatriation to Pakistan.
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.
please forgive the spotty memory, but I seem to recall that the people holding US POW Bowe Bergdahl demanded her release, along with the release of 6 of their fellow tribesmen held at Gitmo, plus $1 M in cash, in exchange for releasing Bowe.
I think that he was transferred to the custody of elements of the Haqqani network 15+ months ago.
As a former US soldier, I am aghast that the Obama Administration doesn’t take this deal. It is the deal of the century. One American soldier is worth 100 Taliban.
But there are no military veterans in positions of influence in the Obama Administration, it seems. None who have served as enlisted Infantrymen, for sure.
Interesting, Brian. I had missed this story, but a quick search has let me know that the Taliban have indeed demanded $1 million, and, according to the report I read, the release of 21 Afghan prisoners — mostly in Guantanamo — and Aafia Siddiqui in exchange for Bergdahl’s release.
I cant agree with your assessment of the relative value of human lives, though. “One American soldier is worth 100 Taliban” — where does that come from?
If the reason for the show trial of Aafia Siddiqui was to prevent her from disclosing her whereabouts and experiences during her missing 5 years and that she was in fact held by the Americans in Bagram or another black prison, then we cannot expect the US to acquiesce to any transfer to Pakistan. If she is transferred to Pakistan the US would no longer be certain that the details of their treatment of her would remain secret.
We should keep watch on the lengths to which the US authorities go to prevent Aafia talking to anyone in the outside world. The longer she is prevented from talking, the surer can we be that the prosecution was bogus intended to silence her.
If the US engages in talks with Pakistan on transferring her but drags them out interminably that would be further evidence of US bad faith.
Is it possible for you or spokesmen for cage prisoners to put the question to Aafia Siddiqui’s 3 lawyers in her recent trial as to whether they are prevented by gag agreements from relaying information their client says to the outside world?
If they deny that they are muzzled can you ask them whether Aafia has said where she was during the missing 5 years and if she has said she was in American custody?
We know that in an outburst in court which was silenced by the judge she claimed to have been in a secret prison but it puzzles me if that she has not told her lawyers. Of course she has never accepted the lawyers supplied to her and is perhaps right to be suspicious. Perhaps she refused to tell them anything because she did not accept them as working for her. Information as to this being the case would also be relevant.
Thanks for your ongoing interest in Aafia’s case. I’ll definitely look into this.
I actually asked Maryam Hassan about this when you last inquired about it, and received the following reply, which I mean to post:
Briefly, Aafia’s family weren’t at all happy w the legal team, and they were in doubt towards the end if the lawyers were serving Aafia’s interests or the government’s. The lawyers were appointed and funded by the Pakistan goverment and not approved by Aafia and her family. An example of this is the petition they filed in August saying Aafia was guilty of the attemtped shooting (!) but mentally unfit.
I believe Judge Berman also did not allow this discussion to be raised in court, although despite that Aafia interjected a number of times and alluded to her experiences (forced confessions, torture etc). Her first lawyer, Elizabeth Fink, did speak about this initially before it went to trial.
As I mentioned above, I’ll do some more investigations — just need to find some time to do so!
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