NEW YORK: A three judge panel of the US Court of Appeals is set to hear an appeal by Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s lawyers, against her September 2010 conviction on charges for attempting to kill American intelligence officers in Afghanistan in 2008.
On February 9, her counsel, Dawn Cardi, will present her argument before the panel to overturn the judgement against her client, while the prosecution will seek dismissal of the appeal.
Dr Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist, was sentenced to 86 years in prison by the Federal District Court in New York City, while she has consistently denied the charges levelled against her, pleading her innocence.
On April 2011, her lawyers had filed an appeal. Her court-appointed lawyer Cardi says the ‘multifaceted’ appeal will challenge the “court’s decision, the several legal issues with the trial, the introduction of evidence as well as how Siddiqui was allowed to testify given what we believe was her diminished capacity.”
However less than a month after the sentencing, Siddiqui fired her lawyers and waived her right to an appeal. Siddiqui wrote that she had fired her five lawyers and would be represented by Farha Ahmed, a Texas-based attorney.
Cardi had said that she had been in touch with Siddiqui’s family through a representative. When asked if they were supportive of the appeal, she said, “I don’t know nor do I care. It is my responsibility and I am obligated to file an appeal.”
Recently, there were reports that Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman met with Tina Foster, Dr Siddiqui’s lawyer from International Justice Network.
Foster had apprised the ambassador of her client’s situation and discussed with her various options to ease Aafia’s conditions of incarceration, and in the long term, her repatriation to Pakistan.
Arrested in July 2008 in Ghazni, Afghanistan, on allegations of being an al Qaeda operative and facilitator, Siddiqui was flown to New York where she was kept in a high security prison.
The neuroscientist’s case, who is a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brandeis University, has garnered global attention, particularly Pakistan, where protests demanding her release and repatriation to the country are held regularly by political and religious parties.
Human Rights groups have also conducted campaigns demanding her release or a lenient sentence.
Dr Fowzia Siddiqui’s open letter to President Zardari
February 8, 2012
Mr.Asif Ali Zardari,
Islamic republic of Pakistan,
Re: Aafia’s Upcoming Appeal Process, the Role of Your Government, and Broken promises.
This Friday, February 10, 2012, the world will be watching as court-appointed attorneys (who are paid by the US government, and Aafia has repeatedly attempted to fire) – will argue before a US Court of Appeals and purport to represent my sister’s interests against her will. This mockery of justice is simply yet another example of how Aafia’s conviction of a crime she did not commit is virtually guaranteed in the US “justice” system. Meanwhile, US agents who have perpetrated crimes against her – including kidnapping, torture, assault, and false imprisonment, have not been called to account.
It has now been three and a half years since agents of the US government shot my sister and the beginning of the 10th year since she was abducted – a Pakistani citizen – abducted from Pakistan through a rendition operation locked up in Afghanistan, and forcibly removed from Afghanistan after an implausible shoot out, and illegally transferred her to the United States.
So-called “high-profile” American criminal defense attorneys convinced the government of Pakistan to pay them millions of dollars – and then refused to resign when Aafia did not accept them. Neither did the Pakistani Government intervene. There can no longer be any doubt that Aafia will never receive justice in the US legal system.
I want to remind you today of the promises that you made, your Prime Minister made, Interior Ministry made and Foreign Ministry made. The promises that said Aafia will be back. Raymond Davis and several other mercenaries have walked free from our land, but innocent citizens are languishing due to the negligence and criminal silence of your administration.
Now, more than ever, the fate of this Daughter of the Nation lies in the hands of the Pakistani government to bring her home. We can only but request and protest, How you respond to our plea’s will be your legacy and will define our nation, let it be of Pride not Shame.
Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui