Mon Nov 17, 2008
By Christine Kearney
A Pakistani woman suspected of links to al Qaeda and charged with trying to kill American interrogators in Afghanistan is mentally unfit to stand trial, according to her psychiatric evaluation.
Aafia Siddiqui, 36, is “not currently competent to proceed as a result of her mental disease, which renders her unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against her,” U.S. District Judge Richard Berman said on Monday while reporting the results of the evaluation.
Berman ordered a hearing on Wednesday to discuss how to proceed with Siddiqui’s case, including the possible use of medication to treat her.
Prosecutors say Siddiqui, a U.S.-trained neuroscientist, while detained for questioning in Afghanistan, grabbed a U.S. warrant officer’s rifle and fired it at the interrogation team, which included two FBI agents. The warrant officer then shot her with his pistol.
She was brought to the United States to face charges of attempted murder and assault.
Her arraignment was delayed after Siddiqui, a practicing Muslim, refused to submit to a strip search or cooperate with prison doctors.
Defense lawyers and prosecutors both argued the frail-looking Siddiqui should undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
Human rights groups had declared Siddiqui missing for five years before the incident in July, when she was arrested outside the governor’s office in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province.
U.S. officials say Afghan police found documents in her handbag on making explosives, excerpts from the book “Anarchist’s Arsenal” and descriptions of New York City landmarks.
In 2004, the FBI called Siddiqui an “al Qaeda operative and facilitator who posed a clear and present danger to America.”
Her lawyers have said she may be a victim of torture and believe she was kidnapped with her children in March 2003 in Karachi, Pakistan, and secretly held in custody for the past five years by either Pakistani or U.S. authorities.
A five-member delegation of Pakistani parliamentarians last month met Siddiqui for three hours at a prison medical facility in Fort Worth, Texas, where her psychiatric evaluation took place. They said she should be released and repatriated to Pakistan.
(Editing by Daniel Trotta and Eric Beech)
Dr. Aafia Siddiqui speaks out
At last a word has come out from Dr. Aafia Siddiqui herself about her travails. On Tuesday, October 6, four Pakistani senators met her in Texas but unfortunately their account has not been properly covered in many news reports. One exception is Daily Times, whose correspondent Khalid Hasan has given a remarkably detailed account of what Aafia told the senators in a meeting which lasted 2 hours and 45 minutes.
ACCORDING TO HER:
- She was on her way to the Karachi airport in 2003 with her children when she was taken. She remembers being given an injection and when she came to she was in a cell.
- She was being brainwashed by men who spoke perfect English. They could be Afghan or others. She did not think they were Pakistanis.
- She was being forced to admit things she had allegedly done. She was made to sign statements, some of which included information on phone calls she was said to have made.
- She has been tortured (but she provided no details).
- She was told by her captors that if she did not co-operate, her children would suffer (two of them are still missing).
- She said she did not know where her children were and it was not clear if they had been with her during her captivity.
- The assault case against her has no basis in fact.
- She expressed her lack of confidence in the court hearing her case and the US legal system.
- She said she didn’t trust the two lawyers who are representing her.
Aafia’s version is not basically different from what the human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Asian Human Rights Commission have been suspecting for long (and it is not just Aafia’s “family” or her “lawyers” who have been raising these allegations, although some news report attempt to give that impression). The importance of this meeting cannot be exagerrated because now, finally, Aafia has narrated her side of the story in her own words, however incoherent she might have been due to the stress she has gone through. The world has been wanting to hear her side of the story.
The most alarming part is the distrust she has shown about the two lawyers representing her case. In my opinion the issue needs immediate attention and questions need to be raised about how the case is being handled. Eyebrows were raised when her lawyers didn’t seek bail for her on August 11.
Also, the controversy about her mental instability. On two occasions when Pakistani representatives met her (August 9 and October 6), they reported that she was articulate and okay. Yet her own lawyers Elizabeth Fink and Elaine Whitfield Sharp as well as the US Attorney Michael Garcia have unanimously established a perception that she needs psychiatric evaluation, and their position has eventually led to her transfer to Texas.
Perhaps it will be remembered that Judicial Activism Panel (Pakistan) demanded as early as August 12 that the Pakistani government should allow a panel of Pakistani lawyers to visit the US to fight her case in the American court.
The issue here is more than just one case. By exploring this case with some responsibility, a lot of related issues about international law and justice can be brought to the front. I think it’s important and let’s focus our attention on what can be done in this regard, and soon. Already, more than two months have elapsed since the issue was brought to the US court on August 6.
- ISLAMABAD: Protest against abduction of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui (Thursday @ 5:30pm)
- Dr. Aafia Siddiqui – send Postcards / Letters / Pictures & Books
- Don’t Blame the Victim – Detailed analysis of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui’s case
- Lahore: Joint Protest against arrest of Dr. Aafia
- Dr. Aafia Indicted on Murder Charges but No Terrorism Charge
Please Go to Petition page below and please do sign.
For the US to Provide Humane Prison Conditions for Dr. Aafia Siddiqui
Also more information
What did they do with her children?