Sunday, February 12, 2012

US court hears Dr Aafia Siddiqui's lawyers appeal

Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist, was sentenced to 86 years in prison by the Federal District Court in New York City. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON: More than a year after the infamous neuroscientist Dr Aafia Siddiqui was sentenced to 86 years in prison on charges of attacking US soldiers, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit heard an appeal in New York on Friday.

Speaking to the The Express Tribune, Dawn Cardi, Dr Siddiqui’s lawyer who has filed the appeal, said that they argued nine points. Cardi said that Dr Siddiqui’s statements that were used to impeach her were not voluntarily obtained, and that she should get a new trial.

Cardi said that the terrorism enhancements should have been imposed on the facts because it increased the 20-year sentence that Dr Sidduqui would have gotten to life sentence. Dr Siddiqui’s lawyer also said that they argued in front of the court that because of Dr Siddiqui’s mental health condition, her lawyers should have made the decision about her testifying at court, and not Dr Siddiqui herself.

When asked about the road ahead for the woman whose case grabbed headlines around the world when she was discovered at Bagram in 2008, Cardi said, “We wont know until the court writes its decision. It’ll take 3-4 months, and then there is no other recourse. Unless there is a constitutional issue of significance, you can not make an appeal to the Supreme Court, but its too early to say.”

Dr Aafia Siddiqui, a neuroscientist by profession and a graduate of MIT and currently held at a federal medical centre in Texas, allegedly went missing for five years before she was discovered in Afghanistan. The prosecution says that she tried to fire on a US soldier during her interrogation. She has also been accused of working for al Qaeda. Dr Siddiqui’s family disputes the US version of this account.

After her sentencing in September 2010, Dr Siddiqui also tried to fire her lawyers, and wrote a letter to the court that she did not want her case appealed. Dawn Cardi, Dr Siddiqui’s counsel, said that no one ever filed a notice of appearance for Dr Siddiqui to do her appeal. “As her assigned counsel, it is our obligation to appeal her case.”

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