By Yvonne Ridley

“Why is there even a trial?” It was, of course, a rhetorical question and probably the most poignant and telling observation made during the opening proceedings against Dr Aafia Siddiqui in New York this week. It is a question I hope every US journalist and media group across the world keeps on asking every day as American tax dollars are squandered persecuting an innocent women for no other reason than someone is incapable of saying: “I made a mistake”.

I don’t know who this individual is, other than he is very senior in US intelligence and is directly responsible for ordering the kidnap, rendition, torture and abuse of Dr Aafia and the disappearance of her three children. In his drive to cover his own tracks and frame Dr Aafia she ended up being shot several times by US guards in an Afghan police cell in the province of Ghazni. Initially, he may have done nothing more than sign a piece of paper which brought about her kidnap from Karachi way back in March 2003 – but by now he will know that the entire Muslim world is watching and waiting to see what happens when the trial gets underway for real on Tuesday, January 19.

Despite the judge’s futile attempts to keep switching and changing pre-trial hearings, supporters of Dr Aafia still manage to fill the spectator gallery and overspill room. Judge Richard Berman will by now be acutely aware he is handling one of the most sensitive cases ever brought before a court in the entire history of George W Bush’s ill-fated War on Terror. I know he has received hundreds of postcards from those who have attended Cageprisoners meetings demanding he uses his influence to stop the primitive and brutal strip searches Dr Aafia has been forced to endure every time she meets with her legal team and attends court.

Should she resist these searches, I can tell you having witnessed CCTV footage fo a woman prisoner doing the same, Dr Aafia will be held down by around four to five male prison warders while two female officers tear away at her clothes and then carry out full cavity searches. What I witnessed on CCTV footage is tantamount to rape and had I not seen it with my own eyes, I would have thought it was filmed in a third world country. Sadly this primitive practice and the pleas of hundreds, if not thousands of westerners to Judge Berman to have the practice stop, have yet to take effect.

The trial is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, January 19 at 9am in the Federal Court in Manhattan, New York where the frail Pakistani mother-of-three faces charges for an alleged crime which happened in Afghanistan in July 2008. The pre-trial hearing on Monday was quite illuminating in itself after the prosecution:

  • ADMITTED Dr Aafia is not a member of al-Qaida
  • REVEALED she has no links to any terrorist organization
  • STATED there were no fingerprints on the gun she was supposed to have wrested from one of the soldiers
  • CONCEDED no bullets were recovered from the cell

The defense complained that the prosecution had still not turned over the list of witnesses they intend to call so defense lawyers have no idea who those witnesses are. It had previously been agreed that the legal team representing Dr Aafia would get those names at least one week before the start of trial.

Dr Aafia’s lawyers requested once again that she be spared the strip searches and have a video link.  The judge said he wanted now for her to have the right to confront her accuser so she must be forced to court. (It should be noted that the defense made the argument that if Aafia’s ability to face her accusers is so paramount, why is this not applied to the “evidence” when those who accuse her of having this evidence are not being brought to court and so she has no right to confront them? However she still must be strip searched and brought to trial against her will for the sake of this same right.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Aafia made one appeal to the public saying that she was for peace and wanted to help.  She said that she was not against America and many injustices are being done to her. Many people in the audience cried as the US Marshalls again forcibly removed her, physically pushing her at times. The defense lawyers pleaded with the US Marshalls and the MDC prison legal representative, Christa Colvin, to allow even a 5 minute meeting between Aafia and her brother but the US marshals refused. When her brother attempted to say a few words to her, the marshals turned Aafia’s head away so she could not respond.

So, this is justice US style. The case, outlined by the prosecution appears to be so thin it is anorexic. It all rests on whether this tiny framed, frail woman wrestled an assault rile from the hands of a burly US soldier and fired off two rounds while she was in a dazed and confused state.

The fact that she was kidnapped from her home city in Pakistan at the behest of US intelligence, beaten, tortured and abused in Bagram for several years before being dumped outside the governor of Ghazni’s home five years later is not up for discussion.

The fact her three children, two of the US citizens, were also kidnapped and two of them are still missing is, apparently not relevant either.

All Judge Berman wants to establish is: “Did Aafia wrestle the gun for a US soldier with the intent to shoot him?”

And since there’s no forensic evidence tying Dr Aafia to the gun, there seems to be no case. No fingerprints, no bullets, no residue – NOTHING.

The prosecution has even conceded there are no terror links which blows the New York tabloids’ headlines calling her the ‘Al-Qaida Mom’.

As I said at the start of this article the rhetorical question asked by one observer was probably the most poignant one of the day: “Why is there even a trial.”

But here’s an even better question I challenge the US media to ask: “Who is responsible for putting this innocent women through six years of hell and where are her missing children?”

* Yvonne Ridley is a patron of Cageprisoners, the first human rights organization which highlighted the mystery disappearance of Dr Aafia Siddiqui in 2003 and has campaigned for her release ever since.

Please remember Dr, Aafia and her children in your prayers and supplications

Related:  The Powerful Testimony of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui

The title is a statement of Umar ibn al-Khattab.  The situation in Gaza is devastating, not just for Gazaians or Palestinians or Arabs, but for Muslims.  We need to feel the pain of our oppressed brothers and sisters.  The Prophet (SAW) stated that, “The believers are like one person; if his head aches, the whole body aches, because of fever and sleeplessness” (Muslim).  We need to feel the suffering and agony felt by our brethern and sisteren.  Umar ibn al-Khattab, the second khalifah, wrote the follow letter to the commander of the Muslim army.  Give it some deep thought:

“…Then after, I order you and all troops that are along with you to be obedient to Allah, in all circumstances, as this is better than the weapons against the enemy and a strong stratagem in the war. I order you and the soldiers who are with you to be more cautious and afraid of your own crimes and sins than your enemy, as the crimes and sins of the soldiers are more dangerous to them than the enemy.

The Muslims are victorious only because their enemies are disobedient to Allah and had it not been so, we have no power over them, because neither our number is equal to their number, nor are our weapons like theirs. If we commit crimes and sins as they do, then they (our enemies) will have superiority over us in power and we will not gain victory over them. WE DO NOT OVERPOWER THEM WITH OUR STRENGTH.

And you should also know that in this marching of yours, there are guards upon you from Allah and they all know what you do. So be shy from them and do not commit Allah’s disobedience while you are going in Allah’s Cause and do not say: ‘ Our enemy is worse than us, so they will not overpower us.’ Perhaps some people who are worse than the others may overpower the others as the (disbelievers) Magians overpowered the Children of Israel when they (the latter) involved themselves with disobedience to Allah. So they (disbelievers) entered the very innermost parts of their homes and it was a promise fulfilled.

And ask Allah the assistance over your own selves, just as you ask Allah for the victory over your enemies. I ask Allah for that, both for you and for us.”

Keep our brothers and sisters (not just those in Gaza, but world-wide) in your duas, insh’Allah.  To find out what we can do to help in Gaza, check out: Action-Gaza

I’m someone who generally avoids talking about politics with any person.  However, I thought the following post deserved a good read.


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