ISLAMABAD: Just days before a Manhattan court sentenced Pakistani neuroscientist Dr Afia Siddiqui to 86 years of imprisonment on charges of attempted murder, Washington turned down Islamabad’s request to postpone the announcement of the verdict.
The Express Tribune has learnt that Pakistan had asked the US to delay the announcement of the judgment in order to explore options to repatriate Dr Aafia Siddiqi.
A foreign official disclosed here on Friday that the US attorney general had the powers to seek a postponement of any court judgment.
“However, unfortunately the US government did not accept Pakistan’s request,” said the official, who wished not to be named. He also confirmed that now, the government of Pakistan had very ‘few’ options to seek the return of Dr Aafia following her conviction.
“We don’t have any prisoners exchange treaty with the US,” he said.
A Foreign Office statement described Dr Aafia Siddiqui as a “victim of circumstances,” and demanded her immediate release and repatriation to her homeland. Pakistan regretted the US court’s decision but stopped short of condemning it.
“The prolonged detention of Dr Aafia Siddiqui and her sentencing is a source of deep concern to the government and the people of Pakistan,” the statement added.
It said that the circumstances surrounding her arrest and trial were never fully explained nor was her indictment on charges substantiated.
Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said that the government would seek a presidential pardon for Dr Aafia or request that the US allow her to serve her sentence in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, the government has decided to form a committee comprising officials from the Foreign Office, ministry of law and justice, ministry of interior and two prominent lawyers to seek the repatriation of Dr Aafia.
The proposed committee, according to the statement, will also examine the possibility of filing an appeal against the judgment of US court, which triggered countrywide protests.
An interparty delegation comprising women parliamentarians will be sent to the US to hold meetings with the concerned authorities there on Dr Aafia’s case.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2010.
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