Thursday, November 20, 2008

US 'dark side' raised in Pakistani scientist case

November 20, 2008

The "dark side" of US counter-terrorism took center stage in the court case of a mentally ill Pakistani woman accused of attacking US officers in Afghanistan.

The New York federal judge in the case of Aafia Siddiqui highlighted defense allegations that Siddiqui was abducted and tortured by US or allied forces prior to extradition from Afghanistan on attempted-murder charges in August.

Siddiqui, 36, is undergoing psychiatric treatment at a government center in Texas and, according to her lawyer, suffers hallucinations featuring her dead or missing children.

Judge Richard Berman on Monday said the preliminary evaluation showed Siddiqui unfit to stand trial.

On Wednesday, he called for more information regarding allegations that the accused, once a high-flying, US-trained neuroscientist, vanished in 2003 and was held in secret captivity for five years.

The allegations, which the US government rejects, are not part of the court case, but still need to be addressed, Berman told prosecution and defense teams.

"Certainly it has a bearing on the clinical treatment ... and the issue of competence," he said.

The US government says Siddiqui had Al-Qaeda links and that if she went missing between 2003 and this year, that's simply because she was in hiding.

Prosecutors allege she was first detained in July by Afghan police and that shortly after, while in custody, she grabbed a rifle and shot at visiting US officers.

Defense lawyer Elizabeth Fink says that Siddiqui is not only innocent of those charges, but the victim of five horrific years in custody -- an experience responsible for her current mental illness.

According to her supporters, Siddiqui was abducted in Karachi in 2003 along with her three young children and held secretly, probably at a US military base in Afghanistan.

Fink quoted a 2001 statement by Vice President Dick Cheney in which he acknowledged that US anti-terrorism bodies use "the dark side," working "quietly, without any discussion."

Obtaining the truth is almost impossible, Fink told the court, although with Barack Obama's election as president, "God knows what's going to happen to this 'dark side' stuff."

Prosecutor David Raskin said there was "not a shred of evidence" that Siddiqui had been in the hands of US or allied forces prior to her July arrest.

"I can say to the court we have found zero evidence that Ms Siddiqui was abducted, tortured -- any of the things we hear repeated."

Siddiqui and her children were "certainly not in US custody, certainly not kidnapped by US forces, the 'dark side,'" he told the court.

"A more plausible inference is that she went into hiding because people around her started to get arrested and at least two of those people ended up at Guantanamo Bay," Raskin said.

However, both Raskin and Fink admitted they had little hard evidence to prove Siddiqui's whereabouts in that mysterious period.

With Siddiqui apparently in mental distress, and not attending her court hearings, she is unlikely to shed much light in the near future.

According to the preliminary medical report, as quoted by Fink, Siddiqui suffers visual hallucinations of one child, who is believed to be dead, and another, who is missing.

"She believes she lives with two of the children," Fink said.

The next court session, in December, will merely provide an update on Siddiqui's medical condition.

Meanwhile, Siddiqui's 12-year-old son, who was with her at the time of her arrest, was released by the Afghans in September, and lives with his extended family in Karachi.

However, Fink said the boy is also suffering mental illness. "He is heavily medicated, he is seriously disturbed. He is under psychiatric care."

Siddiqui's sister in Karachi "probably knows more about Mrs Siddiqui than anybody," Fink said, but "I can only speak to her on the phone, which is tapped."

Fink said she was considering a meeting with the sister in Europe.

Despite repeated allegations and media reports linking Siddiqui to Al-Qaeda, the accusations have failed to stick. She is not charged with terrorism but attempted murder of army and Federal Bureau of Investigation officers.

Siddiqui faces 20 years prison if convicted.


No comments:


All blogs are really just small snapshots of a person's mind, heart and soul as they evolve together through life....

Small bits of the thread of life we weave together into the fabric of ourselves, in the hope we will make sense of our existence, individual and collective.

On this page, is the cloak I have fashioned from my fabric to warm myself in a universe which often makes little sense.

Inside my cloak, it is warm enough to face the blistering cold winds of the insane world in which I find myself.

If you find some a bit of 'the good stuff' here, it has been my pleasure.