The Pakistani government has been giving the impression that intense legal and diplomatic efforts are underway to secure the release of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, but there is little sign of those efforts in the courtroom where she is on trial for attempted murder.
In a recent statement to the media Interior Minister Rehmen Malik stated that Zardari had “taken up” the issue of her release with Robert Gates.
However the U.S. Government’s Justice Department has spared no expense in trying to ensure that Siddiqui spends the next 20 years of her life in prison.
The US Government has a team of their best prosecuting attorney’s working on the case. There have been as many as 8-10 Government attorneys seen conferring about the case during the trial. They have been aggressive throughout, filing every motion possible to secure a conviction.
The U.S Government also brought two Afghan nationals to America even giving one permanent immigration status and money to establish himself in the U.S.
Moreover, the Pakistan Government has not been able to ensure that her family and attorneys have free and open access to her. Nor have they been able to stop the humiliating strip searches that Siddiqui must endure every day. Her brother has not been able to see her since she was brought to the U.S. He’s been allowed a few very restricted phone calls, but that’s it.
Federal Judge, Richard Berman, has also ruled on the side of the prosecution in nearly every motion. One of the most surprising, say legal experts, is when he allowed statements that Dr. Siddiqui made while at a hospital in Bagram to be used against her although she had not been “Mirandized” This refers to the Miranda Laws that direct law enforcement officials to identify themselves to an arrested individual and to advise that individual of their rights, including the right an attorney.
This ruling came a day after Pakistani Ambassador Hussain Haqqani, had a private meeting with Judge Richard Berman and attorneys from both sides, which he described as “positive”.
Dr. Siddiqui was not only “not Mirandized”, but she also had all 4 limbs tied to a bed, was recovering from surgery, on heavy medication, sleep deprived, and most importantly under 24 hour surveillance by FBI officials who failed to identify themselves as such when she made the alleged statements. According to Siddiqui one of the FBI officials “tortured” her and thus she did not speak to him at all. The other, a female agent, pretended to be her friend. These are the same agents who testified against her in the trial. Despite that, Siddiqui was able to give context to the statements she made and continued to maintain her innocence.
Berman, has also sustained a majority of prosecution objections and overruled a majority of defense objections; even those that follow normal standards of jurisprudence. Although Siddiqui is not on trial for terrorism, the judge has allowed inuendo and questioning that suggest exactly that.
Many of her supporters have also been raising questions about her defense team. “I was worried when I heard that the defense was only going to have 1-½ days of testimony.” said an African-American Muslim supporter who has been at the court every day, “But sister Aafia saved the day”. However, she testified against the advice of her defense team.
The defense did not ask their client any questions about her secret detention or her fears that her kids would be harmed during their redirect. This would have explained her motivations for wanting to escape which the prosecution has been using as a sign of her guilt. Human Rights observers who have also been at the trial everyday were hoping for more information about her detention and some clues as to what happened during the 5 years she was “missing“. Although the U.S has deemed that classified information, Dr. Siddiqui seemed ready to talk about everything.
The defense did not follow-up with her on this subject. Although they may have had very sound legal reasoning behind that decision, it was not apparent to Siddiqui’s lay supporters who felt that her references to her “secret detention” helped give a plausible explanation to the events. Speculation on both sides of this case runs wild, but there are people who wonder if the defense is tight lipped on this issue because of the Pakistan government’s role in the possible tragedy. It is, after all, the Pakistani Government that has hired these attorneys.
As Dr. Fowzia, Aaffia Siddiqui’s, sister stated in a recent interview, it is ironic that the people who imprisoned and detained Aafia are now giving her a “fair” trial, and the people who kidnapped her are now paying for her defense. Though the family expressed appreciation for any help they get from anyone, if Aafia Siddiqui is acquitted it be due, in large part, to her moving testimony on her own behalf; and the compassion of jury members who may have the courage to believe her.
The Pakistani public’s demand to know what happened to Aafia Siddiqui will only grow with time. The Pakistani Government ought to establish a truth and reconciliation commission so that full disclosure is allowed in her case and the open cases of all “the disappeared” . This is the only way to ensure that it does not happen again.