Aafia Siddiqui, a U.S.-trained Pakistani scientist was convicted Wednesday of charges that she tried to kill Americans while detained in Afghanistan in 2008. The Associated Press reported that Siddiqui, 37, was convicted on two counts of attempted murder, though the crime was not found by the jury to be premeditated. She was also convicted of armed assault, using and carrying a firearm, and assault of U.S. officers and employees.
The three-week trial made it sound like Siddiqui, who U.S. authorities had previously described as an al-Qaida sympathizer, had suddenly appeared in Afghanistan where she was arrested and then interrogated by Afghan and U.S. officials. (It was during that interrogation that Siddiqui allegedly staged her attack using a rifle a U.S. officer had left unattended in the room.)
The truth is Siddiqui had been “disappeared” in Pakistan by Pakistani intelligence forces in 2003 (She likely was picked up because U.S. intelligence agencies were saying she had terrorist links).
A report in the Pakistani press said that Siddiqui and her kids, then 7, 5, and 6 months old, had been seen being detained by Pakistani authorities. Days later, a spokesman for Pakistan’s interior ministry and two unnamed U.S. officials confirmed that she was in custody and being interrogated. Several days later, however, Pakistani and American officials apparently changed their minds, saying it was unlikely she was being held.
Siddiqui’s mother, Ismet, has said that a few days after Siddiqui’s disappearance, a man on a motorcycle arrived at her house and told her Aafia was being held and that she should keep quiet if she ever wanted to see her daughter and grandchildren again.
Interestingly enough, on July 7, 2008, only a few weeks before Siddiqui’s arrest in Afghanistan, Yvonne Ridley, an award-winning British journalist and patron of Cage Prisoners, a human rights organization, had sparked an uproar by calling a press conference in Islamabad to demand that the United States hand over an unidentified female prisoner being held at the U.S.-run Bagram prison in Afghanistan.
Ridley said the woman, whom she called the “Gray Lady of Bagram,” had been held in solitary confinement for years. And while no one knew for sure the identity of that prisoner, Ridley said she thought it was Siddiqui. Several former U.S. captives have also reported that a female prisoner, known only as prisoner 650, was being held in Bagram. And according to news reports, the former captives said she had lost her sanity, and cried all the time.
Ridley had written previously about “Prisoner 650″ and her four-year ordeal of torture and repeated rapes, saying that her cries had prompted the male prisoners to go on a hunger strike. And, at the Islamabad press conference, Ridley said she called her a “Gray Lady” because she was almost a “ghost, a specter whose cries and screams continue to haunt those who heard her.”
At her trial in New York, Siddiqui said she had been tortured and held in a secret prison before her detention. AP reported that she said charges that she attacked U.S. personnel who wanted to interrogate her were “crazy.” “It’s just ridiculous,” Siddiqui told the court.
And it is ridiculous. More likely this woman has been charged, and now convicted, of these crimes to cover up years of U.S. torture. The United States will never regain a position of trust in the world as long as a miscarriage of justice like this is unchallenged and uncorrected.