Friday, 24 September 2010

Aaifa Siddiqui sentenced to 86 years

It has been a bad week for human rights in the United States. Last night Teresa Lewis, a woman described as being 'borderline mentally retarded', was killed by lethal injection in the state of Virginia. She was the first woman to be executed in Virginia since 1912. On Wednesday another woman suffered at the hands of the American penal system. Aafia Siddiqui has not been killed by the American state. She has been given a living death sentence instead.

The Pakistani neuroscientist has been jailed for 86 years - on charges that this disturbed mother of three tried to kill US agents and military officers after allegedly snatching a rifle from one of her interrogators. There are two facts about this claim we know for sure. The only person shot was Aaifa,  and her were fingerprints never found on the alleged weapon. Aaifa's arrest took place against a background in which it was alleged she was an Al-Qaida agent plotting an attack. Part of the evidence being provided by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. His claims are highly suspect, especially considering he was water-boarded 183 times by the CIA in a single month. Despite the claims, Aaifa was not found guilty of plotting any Al-Qaida style attack.

Aaifa's family claim that she is the victim and that she was kidnapped, tortured, raped and detained at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan for 5 years prior to the incident. Prisoners at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan claimed there was a woman detained there whose screams and sobs would keep them awake at night. She was nicknamed the "Grey Lady of Bagram". There has been huge support for Aaifa in Pakistan but according to this report her family say that Pakistani government failed to provide adequate help. They have vowed to launch a movement to fight for her release.

There is so much about this case murky and sinister and the evidence presented against Aaifa is sketchy to put it mildly. She has suffered enough. It is an outrage she has been given an 86 year prison sentence. This act will only serve to cause further breakdown in American/Pakistani relations at a time when the very opposite is needed.