Tuesday, August 16, 2022

IHC directs FO to help Aafia Siddiqui’s family visit her in the US

The Islamabad High Court has directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to facilitate the family of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, who is serving a jail sentence in an American prison, in getting a US visa so that they could visit her.

Aafia — a US citizen of Pakistani origin — was convicted by a US court in 2010 on charges of shooting at US army and FBI officers while in custody in Afghanistan and was sentenced to 86 years imprisonment.

Her sister, Fouzia Siddiqui, had filed a petition in October 2015 seeking directives for the government to increase its efforts for her sister’s release and for arranging meetings with family members.

In a written order dated June 24, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the court said the Foreign Office (FO) had submitted a report dated June 20, stating that Pakistan’s consul general in Texas had visited the federal medical centre (FMC) where Aafia was detained, “but it appears she now believes that her family is no longer alive, and the warden of FMC states that Dr Aafia could not be forced to make a phone call if she did not wish to”.

The court said the petitioner’s counsel had requested the court to direct the FO to “facilitate a visa for Dr Aafia’s family to visit her in the United States”.

“The officer appearing for the Foreign Office states that the Foreign Office would make its best efforts to facilitate the visa and the requisite permissions for the family to visit Dr Aafia, but it cannot be guaranteed, for the ultimate decision in this regard rests with the US government,” the court observed.

It directed the Ministry of Foreign affairs to facilitate Dr Aafia’s family in getting a US visa to visit her, “with the assurance that the family’s liberty and safety will not be endangered by association with Dr Aafia”.

“The officer representing the Foreign Office present in court will provide his contact details to the learned counsel for the petitioner for Dr Aafia’s family to exchange the requisite information and for communication to be facilitated,” the court order read.

Case against Aafia

Aafia was sentenced to 86 years imprisonment by a US federal court in 2010, after she was convicted of opening fire at US troops in Afghanistan while in their custody, and six other charges against her.

Her lawyers had requested a sentence of 12 years, while prosecutors had pressed for a life sentence.

In 2009, a jury found had found her guilty on seven counts, including two counts of attempted murder. The jury found there wasn’t premeditation in the attempted murder charges.

Prosecutors had alleged that Siddiqui, unbeknownst to some Americans who travelled to Ghazni, was behind a curtain in the second-floor room where they gathered.

She burst out from behind a curtain, grabbed an American soldier’s rifle and started firing. She was shot in the abdomen by a soldier who returned fire with his sidearm, the prosecutors said.

During the trial, she testified that she was simply trying to escape the room and was shot by someone who had seen her. She said she was concerned at the time about being transferred to a “secret” prison.

Aafia’s family and supporters claim she was arrested in Pakistan and handed over to intelligence agencies, who then transferred her into US custody. Both US and Pakistani officials, however, claim that she was arrested in Afghanistan.

Aafia, who has degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brandeis University in biology and neuroscience while living in the US between 1991 and June 2002, denied grabbing the weapon or having any familiarity with firearms.

She allegedly went missing for five years before she was discovered in Afghanistan.

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