Where Dr Aafia Siddiqui will die

Published: November 4, 2010
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This innocuous looking facility could be a death sentence for Dr Aafia Sddiqui

Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s  sentence to 86 years by New York judge Richard Berman sent shock waves around the world.

Many of her supporters felt that it was just one step away from the death penalty. Sadly, this might be closer to the truth than they imagine.

Not only did the judge impose an unprecedented sentence, he also personally intervened to make sure she would serve it in one of America’s most brutal institutions.

In short, Dr Aafia Siddiqui was sentenced to death – because if she remains in the innocuous sounding Federal Medical Facility in Carswell, Texas, like many others who have gone before her, she may not survive the experience.

But if Judge Berman  refused to accept that Dr Siddiqui was unstable, why would he then insist on sending her to Carswell, which has been referred to as the Hospital of Horrors?

Carswell is the only mental institution of its kind in the US

Let me tell you how Carswell– or ‘Cars-hell’, as it has been called – which houses 1,500 female prisoners, earned its reputation.

In the last 10 years:

  • Numerous cases of sexual abuse, including sodomy and rape, were carried out by prison chaplain Vincent Bassie Inametti, whose reign of terror lasted eight years, until he was finally convicted in 2008
  • Another prison doctor was convicted of sexually abusing inmates, while another doctor was allowed to leave without charge after being caught sexually abusing a woman patient
  • Gross medical negligence has been reported, including the neglect of several cancer patients – one went untreated for a year and died
  • Serial sexual predator and prison guard Michael Miller was convicted of raping a detainee
  • Infest of ants went unchecked even when one patient in a coma was covered by the biting creatures as was the corpse of another.

To quote one local newspaper, The Fort Worth Weekly, time served in Carswell

can be a death sentence for women prisoners”

In a different report about Carswell earlier this year, the same newspaper said:

It has a troubling history of medical misconduct and sexual abuse of prisoners. Inametti is the eighth man to be convicted of or fired for sexual abuse, including rape, of female prisoners at the facility since 1997. But women there say that sexual abuse is much more rampant than that; the eight cases only became known when women overcame their fears of retribution and reported their attackers.

Lawyer Elizabeth Fink said in a statement:

One of my clients was transferred to Carswell to receive chemotherapy. She did not receive it for one full year after the therapy was prescribed. She died of classic Kaposi’s Sarcoma, a cancer with a low mortality rate – when treated.

There are a string of court cases outstanding against the institution, from those who have survived the Carswell experience and there are families of those who died in custody, who are still fighting for justice, demanding to know the truth.

The catalogue of crimes against female detainees reads like something from a third world country and such an institution would have certainly been closed down or overhauled by now if it existed in Europe.

In fact, Dr Siddiqui should be removed from the US prison system altogether, pending her repatriation.

All of this will, of course, make uncomfortable reading for Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who promised Dr Siddiqui’s family that wherever she was sent, she would be treated with respect.

“I will make sure Aafia’s living conditions are humane and respecting Islamic ideology and she be provided full access to family and lawyers with no strip searches”

He assured Dr Siddiqui’s sister Dr Fauzia Siddiqui recently.

Well, if he really wants to make good his promise, he should now move heaven and earth to get Siddiqui out of this prison before she becomes another of Carswell’s grim statistics.

The move to repatriate Dr Siddiqui must now take on a new sense of urgency, before it is too late.

yvonne.ridley

Yvonne Ridley

A journalist and patron of Cageprisoners, a London-based NGO concerned with the human rights of those caught up in the war on terror.

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