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Free Dr. Siddiqui, UK demonstrators say
Mon, 16 Aug 2010 18:41:39 GMT
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A demonstration was held outside the US Embassy in London on Sunday to call for the repatriation of Pakistani neuroscientist Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.

The demonstrators say Dr. Siddiqui was unjustly convicted of attempted murder at her trial in New York.

The sentencing of Siddiqui, who was accused and found guilty of attempted murder of US agents in Afghanistan in a controversial trial, has been postponed to next month.

Siddiqui, 37, who was detained by Afghan police on July 17, 2008, was held in custody based on allegations that she had documents containing recipes for chemical weapons and explosives in her handbag, csnnews.com reported.

The following day, a team of US military officers and FBI agents in Afghanistan began interrogating Siddiqui. US authorities have alleged that during cross-examination, she grabbed a rifle and began firing at an Army captain, a claim fiercely denied by Siddiqui's attorneys based on the argument that she is too small and weak to handle the heavy US automatic rifles.

The only person injured during the episode, however, was Siddiqui, who was shot in the torso by one of the US interrogators.

On February 3, a jury unanimously found Siddiqui guilty of attempted murder, armed assault, and using and carrying a firearm.

Her attorneys argued that there was no physical evidence that Siddiqui had touched a weapon.

"I disagree with the jury's verdict. In my opinion, it is wrong. There was no forensic evidence, and the witness testimony was divergent, to say the least. This is not a just and right verdict… And my opinion is that this was a verdict that was based on fear and not fact," Siddiqui's defense attorney, Elaine Whitfield Sharp, told reporters shortly after the verdict was read on February 3.

Human rights organizations say Siddiqui was abducted in Pakistan along with her three children in 2003 and held captive for five years by the US and was interrogated and tortured while held in secret prisons.

"We think… she suffered while in secret prisons and [was] tortured for those five years while she was missing. In addition, she's been in solitary confinement for a year and a half while in US custody," Executive Director of the International Justice Network Tina Foster told Democracy Now on February 14.

"The jury was told that she was brought to the United States to face charges because she opened fire on US soldiers," said Petra Bartosiewicz, an independent journalist who wrote about Aafia Siddiqui in the November 2009 edition of Harper's Magazine.

"But what they were not told was that she'd been missing for five years and that when she went missing in 2003, she was a suspected al-Qaeda operative. And she was never charged with that in this case," she added.

Saddiqui's two youngest children, who were three months old and four years old when captured and taken into detention, are still missing.

The case of 'child soldier' Khadr

Another prominent case of US human rights abuses under the pretext of the "war on terror" involves Canadian-born Omar Khadr, who was only 15 years old when he was captured in Afghanistan and accused of killing a US soldier.

The military trial of Khadr, the youngest Guantanamo Bay prisoner, was held last Thursday. His lawyers insisted that he has undergone severe inhumane treatment at the hands of US interrogators, including indirect threats of rape and death.

The 23-year-old Canadian, who has been held captive in the Cuba-based prison camp, is facing charges of war crimes for allegedly killing a US soldier in Afghanistan eight years ago.

Khadr's attorney, Lt. Colonel Jon Jackson, told a jury of military officers that Khadr was a frightened child bleeding from wounds and under fire in a compound with men who told him what to do.

Omar Khadr's Canadian lawyer, Dennis Edney, expressed extreme outrage when a US judge ruled Khadr's confessions, which were extracted under torture, could be admitted at his war crimes trial.

He reportedly confessed to the crime eight years ago while in a US prison at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, but later pleaded not guilty. His lawyer has argued that his confessions should be ruled as inadmissible because he was forced to confess due to torture and threats of death and rape.

"He suffered 142 separate interrogations at Bagram," war crimes lawyer Alfred Lambremont Webre said.

"Bagram interrogators threatened him with rape, he was not allowed to use the bathroom, and he was forced to urinate on himself. They were shoving bright lights up against his face and his eyes would tear and tear and tear."

"This is torture; it is prohibited by international conventions," Webre added.

Khadr reportedly had been beaten, subjected to long periods in solitary confinement, doused in freezing water, spat on, chained in painful positions, terrorized by barking dogs, and subjected to sleep deprivation in the three months he was imprisoned in Bagram.

"He is protected by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. And he is protected as a prisoner of war by the Third Geneva Convention and he is protected by the convention against torture and other cruel or inhumane treatments," Webre said.

Other suspicious cases

As a big question mark continues to hang over Washington's already dismal human rights record, another death row case raises more eyebrows over the fair administration of justice in the country.

Linda Carty, a British citizen, is due to be executed by lethal injection in the US state of Texas for the alleged murder of a woman nine years ago, the Jamaica Observer reported on its website.

Carty, 51, has always protested her innocence, but she could be given the lethal injection within weeks since the US Supreme Court has refused to review the murder conviction, which is said to have resulted from a flawed trial.

Carty was arrested in 2001 and charged with the murder of a tenant on the same floor of the apartment building where she lived in Texas.

Despite the lack of any forensic evidence linking Carty to the crime, the jury found her guilty and sentenced her to death.

Cases of human rights violations in the West are not few.

As a case in point, fresh evidence has come to light that questions the death of a British arms inspector seven years ago.

A retired pathologist has cast further doubt on the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr. David Kelly, the weapons inspector alleged to have committed suicide in 2003, reports the British daily The Independent on its website.

Dr. Jennifer Dyson has joined other experts questioning the official finding that Kelly bled to death, the report added.

She argues it was more likely that the 59-year-old scientist suffered a heart attack due to the stress he had been placed under.

Kelly, Britain's most senior inspector in Iraq, was found dead in woods near his home in Oxfordshire. Kelly had allegedly taken a non-lethal dose of painkillers and had cut his left wrist.

He was revealed to be the source behind a BBC news story which accused Tony Blair's former communications chief, Alastair Campbell, of 'sexing up' the so-called 'dodgy dossier' about Iraq's weapons.

RB/NN/SES/MB/HGL
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