Injustice for Dr Aafia once again

Published: September 24, 2010

The nickname given to her by the American media ‘Lady Qaeda’ was totally uncalled for and must have influenced the jury.

I cannot express how disappointed I am at the sentence that Dr Aafia Siddiqui received.

She did not deserve to be convicted at all – if one looks carefully at the testimonies of key witnesses. There are also questions about the legitimacy of how she was picked up, but without even addressing these issues, I would just like to talk about the initial case and verdict which was given earlier this year.

During the case an FBI firearms expert had expressed doubts whether the M-4 rifle, which was allegedly grabbed by the Pakistani neuroscientist to attack US interrogators in Afghanistan, was ever fired at the crime scene. Carlo Rosati, the expert who testified in a federal court, said he had thoroughly examined the weapon, the curtain from a room of Ghazni police station where the shooting incident took place and the debris of its wall where two bullets reportedly hit, but found no evidence that gunshots are supposed to leave.

Pointedly asked by Charles Swift, the lead defence lawyer, if he was certain the M-4 rifle was ever fired at the crime scene, Rosati said he could not say that with absolute certainty.

In his testimony on  the fourth day of Dr Siddiqui’s trial, the same firearms expert said there was no gunshot residue on the curtain behind which Aafia was stated to be sitting, nor did he find any projectiles or fragments from the part of the bullet-hit wall built with stones and hard mud.

An FBI forensic expert also confirmed that he found no fingerprints of Aafia Siddiqui on the M-4 rifle when the weapon was produced in the court.

Regardless of what went on in the international media, it should be made clear that Dr Aafia has never been charged with terrorism. Rather, she is charged with snatching a US warrant officer’s rifle in mid-2008 while she was detained for questioning in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province and firing it at FBI agents and military personnel. However, none of the personnel were hit. Hence the nickname given to her by the American media ‘Lady al-Qaeda’was totally uncalled for and must have influenced the jury.

What is sad is that being such a core ally of the United States in the war against terror, our government has been able to achieve nothing in this regard, and the treatment a Pakistani citizen has received is just appalling.

Today our foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit told AFP that we are continuing efforts to get Dr Aafia repatriated to Pakistan and our Prime Minister has said that he would urge the Americans to return Aafia in place of more assistance as that will improve America’s image more in the eyes of the people of Pakistan. I have my fingers crossed and I hope that this ploy works.

If an FBI forensic expert confirmed that there were no fingerprints on the alleged rifle, and a firearms expert testified that he cannot be sure if a rifle was fired in the alleged incident, how can the jury return a guilty verdict when the burden of proof lies with the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that she fired the gun?

Witness testimonies were preferred over concrete empirical evidence.

To me, it seems, Aafia was convicted beforehand and the burden of proof was placed on the defence. The nickname ‘Lady al-Qaeda’ is a testament to that.

Remember, it’s innocent until proven guilty not guilty until proven innocent.

Terrorists who kill innocent people should be sent to the gallows but the search for revenge should not be turned into a witch-hunt.


Shaukat Hamdani

Broadcast journalist with an interest in sports, travel, history and culture. He tweets @Shaukii

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Nadir Ali

    Exactly !!
    But, Still its saddening to see many of us thinking (rather believing) that Dr.Afia was involved in nasty activities. They’re the same people following FOX NEWS on ‘valued’ comments and reports on Aafia Siddique.
    Can we ever judge and be able to see how we’re manipulated ??Recommend

  • faraz

    Over a 100 Baloch women have been allegedly picked up by the agencies; why dont we protest and write articles for them? Similarly, hundreds of innocent women rot in jails. These women are in the country; we dont need to negotiate with a foreign country for their release. And it was our agency which handed her over to US; US marines didnt kidnap her from Karachi through a commando operation. Why do we fool ourselves? Recommend

  • Ghausia

    Have you thought of the fact that there must have been a legitimate reason for her to be on the FBI’s list to begin with? They’re not bungling buffoons like our cops, they know what they’re doing. Then there is the fact that Dr. Aafia’s sister changes her story of how Aafia was kidnapped every now and then. Add that to the fact that even the Wikileaks reports prove that there was something there and you have a guilty person. Sure, the torture she endured is a serious violation the Geneva Convention. But she’s still guilty of one thing or the other. I don’t mean to get rude or personal, but considering that you’re an actual professional journalist, I’d expect something more factual and less “boohoo woe is us poor Muslims”.Recommend

  • Tanzeel

    Oh so you re-probing the case on blog ?Recommend

  • Nikos Retsos

    The 86 years in prison sentence is quite preposterous, as is the “Al Qaeda Lady” appellation the U.S. authorities have coined for her. And, actually, that sentence is “a life in prison” term, even though there was no crime committed, and there is no victim. That would certainly inspire young Pakistanis to become anti-American martyrs. After “Guantanamo, Abu Graib, and the news last week that American soldiers in Afghanistan were killing Afghan civilians “for sport,” now our judicial system has swatted Siddiqui, a “fly” Pakistani hater of Americans, with a sledgehammer! Worse yet, we are making headlines with it as if “justice was done,” and claiming the “high morale ground. But is it?

    First, as a former army investigating officer, this question comes to mind: Why a loaded rifle was left next to a hostile person that was being investigated? Wasn’t this “a set-up” to have the person grab the rifle and give interrogators a reason to charge her with “attempted murder?”
    It seems at the outset that the U.S. had nothing to charge her with, and the grabbing by her of a loaded weapon next to her looks more like an entrapment by the FBI to find something to lock her up, something for which the FBI has a history for doing, and it is famous for. Then, there is this question: She is married to a relative of a former Al Qaeda member, but does this make her “an Al Qaeda Lady?” If my daughter gets married with a gang member, does that make me “a gang-banger?” Does she hates Americans? Sure, who doesn’t in Pakistan? Even people who become instant millionaires cooperating in our war with us hate us, and they will stamp us in the back when they get a chance! They don’t like us, but they like to make riches as our stooges. But they feel guilty as Pakistanis, and sinners as Muslims, and they will stamp us in the back to attain ablution with their faith!

    A Few weeks ago, British prime minister David Cameron accused Pakistani officials for not being real friends, a.k.a. ally backstabbers! Sure they are. And if we do such stupids things as giving Siddique a sentence similar to that of the infamous Carlos “the Jackal” terrorist, for an “attempted murder charge” that looks suspicious, they will hate us more! I hope David Cameron call Obama and tell him to wise up. And I hope
    Obama can see the bigger picture on this case, that is, What is good for America, not what is good for headlines and for the prosecutor’s resume!

    Finally, the Inter Service Intelligence, also known as ISI, factor. It is the core of the Pakistani establishment. And we suspect that they hate us, and that actually work against us behind our backs in the war in Afghanistan. They sure do. And when we grab a distraught Pakistani woman, crown her with “the Al Qaeda Lady” label, and treat her like a 9/11 bomber, there is no doubt they will hate us more, because they are above all Pakistanis. And I have no doubt that, in their own way, they will avenge the injustice to Aafia Siddiqui. The Pakistani prime minister Mr. Gilani called her ‘the daughter of the nation,” and he has already expressed his outrage in order to calm down the Pakistanis. Maybe the U.S. will use Siddique to push Gilani to help the U.S. wipe out the Haggani Taliban network for her release. Well, as I see it, the U.S.-Pakistani
    relations are entering a bedlam stage, and that will certainly hasten the U.S. failure next door – in Afghanistan.

    Let’s not, therefore, celebrate the 86 years prison term for Siddique. We have just shot our selves in the foot, and I have no doubt the sentence will be reversed or thrown out. The sentence is highly detrimental to bigger American interests, and it may cost American lives in the long term.
    Smashing a fly with a sledgehammer may make us feel good now, but “justice,” like every story, has always two sides! Nikos Retsos, retired professorRecommend

  • Rao Amjad Ali

    And what was an MIT and Brandies graduate doing in Kandhar? Unless, unbeknownst to most of us, it was declared a tourist destination of choice. Both Fraz and Tanzeel are spot on. In a country where the rule of law is almost non-existent, it is not surprising that our elite and the right wing yahoos are unable to fathom that their voices fell on deaf ears in a NY court.

    As an aside, wonder what happened to AM (r) Asghar Khan’s petition regarding the diversion of ISI funds to name only one of hundreds of cases of national import whose files are gathering dust in what is allegedly a high efficiency and Argus eyed SC. These cases eminated from within the walls of this country so let’s marshall our energies for bringing them to a conclusion? Recommend

  • Khadim Husain

    It is sad to see that some pakistani’s are speaking language of fox news. There was no crime committed by her and if CIA is so clever why it failed to trace bin laden since last eight years. She is innocent because she was abducted without proof of any crime and later charges against her are engineered and based on hate and Islamophobia. What is jewery, if any american is ever required to be presented in front of jury composed of Pakistani’s so surely those would indict that american in same manner.
    Her conviction is based on Islamophobia, hate to muslims and failure to catch real culprits of 911. Those are blindly firing and killing everyone with their guns or using courts to sentence peoples. Shame on democracy or civilization of U.S. African states are more civilised than USA.Recommend

  • Hasan

    We should all respect the judgment of the court as they tell us to do in Pakistan. You can’t decide to respect the judgment or not based on your personal feelings.Recommend

  • Jaydev

    Plz dont confine to inbred news reading..i.e. only conspiracy,leftist news..checkout LWJ’s detailed analysis on Lady Al-Qaeda

  • Khadim Husain

    That is all propaganda and prosecution did not represent any charge propagated through Western media, there was no charge against her about her any links with Al Kaeda. Alleged persons are still alleged no US courts has sentenced to anyone mentioned in Lady Al Kaeda type essays.
    Judgement is based on hate and it is not first time that US courts have indicted anyone on the basis of hate like raceism, religious and nationality hate. There are many cases on web.
    The courts sentence is based on Islamophobia and hate against Muslims. We condemened such bogus sentence and protest against 86 years when no one was killed according to prosecution. US courts are political courts not based on law and justice.Recommend