Pakistan reacts to Aafia's sentence, demands repatriation

Pakistani politicians voice concern over Dr Aafia Siddiqui's sentence as protests continue across the country.


Agencies September 24, 2010

The Foreign Office said on Friday it was "disappointed and saddened" by a US court's decision to sentence Dr Aafia Siddiqui to 86 years in jail, and would work to bring her home.

The New York court found Aafia Siddiqui guilty of the attempted murder of US officers in Afghanistan in a case that sparked outrage in Pakistan.

"We are disappointed and saddened by the sentence but the government has not given up," foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit told AFP, hours after Siddiqui's family vowed to launch a "movement" to get her released from jail.

The tough jail term sparked immediate outrage in Siddiqui's hometown of Karachi and in Lahore, where hundreds of activists demonstrated, chanting anti-US slogans.

"We are continuing efforts to get Aafia Siddiqui repatriated to Pakistan," the foreign ministry spokesman said.

The government has come under pressure at home, particularly among right-wing groups, as well as from Siddiqui's family for failing to get her released.

Asked under what circumstances Siddiqui could return to Pakistan, Abdul Basit said US President Barack Obama could pardon her, or an agreement could be reached for her to serve at least part of her sentence in Pakistan.

Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the government will surely bring back Dr Aafia Siddiqui but it needs time to do so.

In a statement, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States Hussain Haqqani said the government took every possible step for the safe release of Dr Aafia. Haqqani added that Pakistan will continue efforts for the safe return of Aafia.

PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif has expressed his grief over the sentence given to Dr Aafia Siddiqui.

In a special message to Dr Aafia's family, Nawaz said he had raised the issue of Dr Aafia's release in his meeting with US special envoy Richard Holbrooke. The PML-N chief said he would make all efforts to secure Dr Aafia's release. He also added that the entire nation was praying for her safe return.

JUI-F Chief Molana Fazalur Rehman has cancelled his visit to America as a protest against the decision regarding Doctor Aafia.

Talking to media outside the parliament house he said that the punishment of Doctor Aafia has added to the list of American crimes.

Protests against Aafia's sentence

Fauzia Siddiqui told reporters in Karachi that all of Pakistan would agitate to get her sister freed. "I was alone... when I started the campaign to release my sister, but from now on it will be the Aafia movement as the whole nation is with me," she said.

Around 200 activists from Jamaat-e-Islami and various right-wing groups gathered outside Siddiqui's Karachi home overnight as police went on full alert to guard against possible violence. The crowd chanted slogans including "Down with America" and "Allahu akbar" (God is greater) soon after news of the sentence filtered through.

"We have declared a high alert and deployed maximum police force in the city to stop possible violence and ensure that no private property is damaged during future protests," the city's police chief Fayyaz Leghari told AFP.

In Lahore, around 200 activists from Islami Jamiat Talaba, the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, burnt tyres and shouted anti-US slogans after the sentencing.

US human rights activists condemn sentence

A New York-based human rights group has condemned as "unfair and unjust" the sentence handed down to Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistan neuroscientist, saying she had never caused harm to anyone.

"This sentence is not only unjust because of its harshness to Dr Siddiqui - but also because of its impact on her two small children in Pakistan who may never see their mother again," the International Justice Network, attorneys for Siddiqui's family, said in a statement after Thursday's tough sentence imposed US District Judge Richard Berman.

"But the greatest injustice of all is that those who are responsible for the kidnapping, disappearance, and abuse of Dr Siddiqui and her children without cause have yet to answer for their actions.

"While today's sentence concludes a shameful chapter in American history, it is only a matter of time before the truth about what has been done to Dr Siddiqui, her family, and the thousands of other innocents who have been disappeared is revealed. Importantly, despite today's sentence and all the injustices which she has endured, Dr Siddiqui has consistently made clear that she does not support any acts of violence being taken in her name," the statement added.

"The International Justice Network stands in solidarity with the international community in condemning this unfair and unjust result in Dr. Siddiqui's case."

"This case is not over. This is just the beginning," Tina Foster of the International Justice Network told reporters, adding that the real importance of the case, her group believes, is that it draws attention to thousands of disappearances in Pakistan.

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COMMENTS (33)

Anoop | 10 years ago | Reply @A.R., I know US is not an angel. It has run or running secret detention centers,probably, around the world(There is no clear way to establish this, again). But, not on US soil. Torture cannot happen on US soil or the case against any accused becomes really weak according to US law. In this aspect it is a little different from Indian and Pakistani law inherited from the British. Anyway, whatever you arguments about her guilt and how evil America is, the fact is they will never send any criminally charged and convicted person to Pakistan. Pakistan is a client state of the US and the prisoner exchange is a one way process. Dr. Aafia, I read, is a US citizen. She'll live the rest of her life incarcerated in the US prison. That is for certain.
A.R | 10 years ago | Reply @Anoop You ignored what i asked and started discussing whether she fired at them or not...which is different from what i asked: "i wonder wht I would do had I been kidnapped by a bunch of american soldiers? What would you do? Ironic isn’t it you get charged for shooting at your kidnappers in America.”" I have read abt the conflicting testimonies of the soldiers on the issue and her testimony (which to me, seems to be one of a mentally ill individual) but thats a different issue. You said: What ever your severely anti-American press has said about the event is just rubbish. How will they come to know if she was raped or not. Hasn’t she herself said she was not tortured? You are speaking as it it is the undeniable truth. America and Americans are far superior society and have a far superior system any in the Muslim world. The problem with Americans is also that they never watch or read what the press of other countries has to say. Yeah i know you don't understand other languages, thats a major restriction. But not us. We excessively watch american nd british news channels. CNN and BBC were aired on Pakistan's national channels free of cost when i was a child. It is YOUR OWN media which has said this. Search abt what Yvonne Ridley (a british journalist) had to say...She has worked on this torture issue and the shooting issue as well. And also what Tina Foster (head of the intenational justice network nw york) has to say. Furthermore a bagram prisoner has himself written a book in which he talks abt dr.aafias torture. dr. afia has herself been telling her family members abt how \she was tortured, raped and strip searched and her family has been saying the same...and what abt her children why were they away for so long? and where is her youngest child? AND the world is completely aware of the far superior american standards like how they were on display for the world to see at ABU GHRAIB http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AbuGhraibtortureandprisoner_abuse
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