Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Response

On August 17, 2008, I posted on the arraignment of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui in a federal district court in New York. In that post I referred to an op-ed piece in the UAE's publication Khaleej Times Online which provided one possible scenario on Dr. Siddiqui's whereabouts for the past four years after she disappeared in Pakistan in 2007 and I also commented on the fact that few, if any, US news outlets picked up on some of the inconsistencies in the government's version of Dr. Siddiqui's capture and subsequent charges for assault on federal officials.

I wasn't the only American blogger who felt uncomfortable with the official version. If you do a simple google on Aafia Siddiqui, you'll see what I mean. You'll also see that the foreign press, especially in the Middle East and most especially among Arab journals also ran with the story. Well, our government must also know how to google. An "official" response showed up in Pakistan's Daily Times on August 16, 2007. I got that link via this source. I am quoting the entire letter to the editor written by the US Ambassador to Pakistan out of fairness.

We at the US Embassy Islamabad have read with increasing concern a number of erroneous and irresponsible media reports regarding the arrest of Ms Aafia Siddiqui.

We commend the majority of Pakistani journalists for their accurate and balanced reporting and overall professionalism. Sadly, however, a few have allowed rumour, innuendo, and grossly unsubstantiated allegations to dominate their coverage.

Unfortunately, there are some who have an interest in simply distorting the facts in an effort to manipulate and inflame public opinion. The truth is never served by sensationalism; we believe your readers, as fair-minded and critical thinkers, deserve better.

Therefore, it’s high time that we set the record straight.

Allegations that Ms Siddiqui has been in custody at the Bagram Theatre Internment Facility in Afghanistan are completely erroneous. Ms Siddiqui was not in the custody of the United States — either at Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base or anywhere else — at any time prior to her detention by Afghan police on July 17, 2008. The United States did not have knowledge of her whereabouts until she was detained by Afghan police on July 17, 2008.

Ms Siddiqui is accused of seizing a weapon and firing — unprovoked — on US personnel during questioning. She sustained non-life threatening injuries, received prompt medical attention, and is expected to fully recover. At no time was Ms Siddiqui mistreated or abused in any manner whatsoever.

There was absolutely no reward or “bounty” paid by the United States for the capture of Ms Siddiqui.

The United States has no definitive knowledge as to the whereabouts of Ms. Siddiqui’s children.

While in the custody of the United States, consular authorities of the Government of Pakistan have standard consular access to her under the terms of the Vienna Convention. Pakistani Embassy officials visited Ms Siddiqui on August 9.

Upon her arrival in the United States, a criminal action was initiated against Ms Siddiqui. She is charged in a criminal complaint filed in the Southern District of New York with one count of attempting to kill United States officers and employees and one count of assaulting United States officers and employees. If convicted, Ms Siddiqui faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each charge.

The US justice system is based on the abiding principle that defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. Ms Siddiqui will receive a fair and public trial and will be afforded every opportunity to present her defence.

We would encourage your readers to remain open-minded but sceptical of these current — and any future — sensational allegations that have no basis in fact.


US Ambassador to Pakistan

Embassy of the United States of America

Now, in my original post I commented on how I felt the US press had really walked away from some really puzzling questions raised in their own articles. That's bad enough. Now, however, we have an official US response to some of the allegations raised by various people, and I have yet to see any substantive US press response to either the controversy or the response. Apparently it's just not newsworthy.

And as to the response from Ambassodor Patterson? Well, I have this absolutely lovely bridge I am willing to part with at great sacrifice if anyone's in the market.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I recall correctly, there are several years between the disappearance of Dr. Siddiqui and her reemergence in the US on August 9.

In court, Siddiqui will be able to shed light on this chronological gap. Of course, we shouldn't be surprised by the Bushites claiming that her testimony is damaging to the nation's security and should not be allowed.

There is one point where I may slightly disagree with your intuition, Since I grow up in a Muslim neighborhood, I'll be less surprised if Dr. Siddiqui, MIT not withstanding, did shot at US officials.

It's not that Muslims are any less human than us; they definitely are us, but their social development and years of oppression, occupation and abuse brought about scars we are used to. It will take time until those scars disappear.

6:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Diane, when I read the bit about shooting at FBI agents, what struck me was - if she had been held, either by Pakistanis or Americans or whoever for several years with no appeal to law, no judicial review, no nothing, shooting at her interrogators and attempting to escape may have the most rational thing she could have done.


9:51 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

Actually, Lakelobos and Jake, I really haven't formed an opinion on whether Dr. Siddiqui fired on the FBI and military inquisitors or not, mainly because I haven't really read any credible accounts of her "capture."

However, she is reportedly a small woman, about 90 pounds. I am an average sized woman for my age (62): I'm 5'3" and weigh about 130 pounds. I can handle a 9mm handgun with some accuracy, but I don't think I can handle a military rifle with any facility.

The UAE article I cited which was the basis of my first post suggested that the military weapon was left "unsecured" in her vicinity and she allegedly grabbed it and fired (to no effect, I might add). At that point one of the US military people present fired at least once, striking her in the torso.

My beef throughout all of this (I mean besides the possibility that this woman has been in detention by the US for years and has been tortured) is that the US press has done absolutely nothing with respect to finding some answers to some very obvious questions.

And the government's response so far has been limited to the filing of charges and a letter to the editor in a Pakistani newspaper.


10:00 AM  
Blogger Smaug said...


is it just me (yeah, I'm gettin' old) but is the terminology used in the LTTE by our government representatives eerily familiar as such protests from the old Soviet Union? I had even more chills than usual - did the KindaSleezy Lice State Department hire a bunch of 4th directorate unemployed KGB hacks for PR folks? What would Madison Avenue say?

1:51 PM  
Blogger ondelette said...

Diane --

Thanks for blogging on this. There is another account of the arrest by Reuters-Asia, from the police in Ghazni (which police I'm not sure, there were two different sets involved). They say they got into a squabble with the U.S. officers over custody, and the U.S. officers proceeded to disarm the Afghan police. During that, Ms. Siddiqui approached the Americans to complain about the treatment of the police (not clear whether Ghazni or Afghan National), and when she approached, the American soldier somehow thought she had a bomb and fired on her, hitting her twice.

Not explained is why she would complain to the Americans about the Afghans, or why an American would think a woman in police custody was rigged with a suicide bomb.

Patterson's response is stupid, given that anyone who would trust a preliminary explanation for the crime of shooting a prisoner in custody would think Jessica Lynch went down firing and Pat Tillman died from enemy fire.

The time line is what's bothering the U.S. version of where she's been. It doesn't explain how she could elude them perfectly, and her family for five years, then suddenly when someone official (Asian Human Rights Commission, Imran Khan, etc.) asks where she is, suddenly they catch her.

Anyway, thanks for being inquisitive on this one, there is certainly another shoe to drop on the 3rd. South Asian sources are saying the U.S. intends to charge her with everything from running a charity in Boston to running diamonds in Monrovia to running al Qaeda in Pakistan.

2:19 PM  
Blogger seshupunter said...

Then suddenly when someone official asks where is. Suddenly they they catch her



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