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Condemned by Their Silence

There are literally millions of people across the world who are now involved in the intriguing case of Dr Aafia Siddiqui and they fall in to several categories.

The first is a huge army of ordinary people of faith and no faith who represent many different nationalities and their aim is to see justice and fair play delivered to Aafia.

The second is a small, but on the surface of it, more powerful group of individuals who are ruthlessly ambitious; prepared to manipulate the truth and openly lie to elevate their own position to the detriment of others and Aafia in particular.

These are numerous in the Pakistan government, past and present, as well as the last two US administrations and includes the dark forces at play which support them as well as the coterie of smooth-talking diplomats and ambassadors who tread the corridors of power.

Then there are the others – perhaps the most despicable group of all who are what I call fence sitters and spectators. The great Irish philosopher Edmund Burke once said that evil would only triumph if good people sat back and did nothing and he was right.

With few exceptions the larger Muslim organizations have remained uncharacteristically quiet about Aafia’s case.

Why have they been muzzled? Correction. Why have they allowed themselves to be muzzled? To their eternal shame they have remained silent about the plight of Dr Aafia Siddiqui because they have been duped by an officially-sanctioned unofficial whispering campaign.

The rule is simple brothers (and sisters), comrades, friends and campaigners. If something is wrong it is wrong, entirely wrong and in Aafia’s case there is something wrong about the kidnap, torture and rendition of a brilliant academic and her three children.

The fence sitters in the US are a disgrace. Men without courage or backbone are more to be pitied, I suppose as cowardice is a dreadful affliction in the battlefield that is life.

A yellow streak down the spine makes people look the other way, blinkers their vision and forces them to adopt an Ostrich position. This makes it all the more easy for hate preachers like Pastor Jones in Florida to emerge and threaten to burn the Holy Qur’an.

But Edmund Clarke was right when he said evil will triumph if good people sit back and do nothing. The leaders of the organizations I’ve mentioned are good people but they are frightened and I pray that one day they will get the courage they so desperately need to stand up and be counted.

And in these troubled times it does take courage to stand up against an arrogant, bullying, intimidating political machine which brought words like kidnap, torture, rendition, water-boarding and extra-judicial killings in to daily use.

Just a few hours remain before the resumption of a trial in a New York court which is being presided over by Judge Richard Berman. To his eternal shame he is one who has remained silent about the manner and style with which Dr Aafia Siddiqui was presented in his court.

How the hell can a Pakistani citizen who allegedly committed a crime in Afghanistan be tried in his court without an official extradition procedure at the very least?

Why did he not demand that the paperwork was at least in order? He has presided over a mis-trial from the outset.

While he deemed the defendant mentally fit to stand trial but not mentally capable of determining her own legal team. Whenever Dr Aafia Siddiqui – a brilliant neuro scientist bordering on genius by the way – attempted to sack her lawyers he refused her request saying she wasn’t mentally fit to make the decision. You can’t have it both ways, Your Honour.

Judge Berman has alas, so far, remained silent about the private – behind closed door meetings – he has had with the Pakistan Ambassador Hossein Haqqani. Another good reason for a mistrial if only the legal team had the backbone to challenge the judge in his court.

The trouble is so-called ‘Dream Team’ lawyers Charlie Swift and Linda Moreno’s very lucrative two million dollar trial was being paid for by the Pakistan Government, making Mr Haqqani the overall client. Hmm, how does that one work when the Pakistan government colluded in the first place with the US intelligence agencies to kidnap Dr Aafia Siddiqui and her three children from the streets of Karachi in March 2003? Another reason to declare a mis-trial.

And what of the ubiquitous Mr Haqqani? He’s not a career diplomat. In fact he holds US citizenship or has aspirations to making him a very peculiar choice as Pakistan’s man in Washington. Once his foray into the world of diplomacy comes to an end he’ll resume his career as a lecturer in America, something his US controllers remind him on a regular basis.

His Excellency has certainly been a busy little bee with regards Dr Aafia’s case … briefing some of my colleagues in the western media telling them ‘off-the-record’ what a bad woman she is!

Just recently his cover was blown when he refused the very excellent female politician Cynthia McKinney a visa to Pakistan. Cynthia was part of an international delegation due to travel to Islamabad to raise concerns about the case with the government there.

Mr Haqqani, who thinks nothing of giving visas to Blackwater guns-for-hire and mercenaries heading to the fresh killing fields of Pakistan saw fit to stop the former US Congress woman from travelling there.

He squirmed and wriggled after being hoisted by his own petard, but like a worm impaled firmly on a fishhook of his own making, he could not escape the humiliating exposure of his duplicitous behaviour.

If he has been briefing against Dr Aafia Siddiqui all this time, one can only imagine what nonsense he filled in Judge Richard Berman’s head during their private meetings. In any other country this sort of revelation would be a career wrecker for both men, but justice is the US is a strange beast.

(Yes, this is a serious allegation to make and I would have asked the judge personally, but he has banned me from using his fax and phone! Hilarious really, when you consider he has no legal jurisdiction in London, where I live. Obviously he thinks if he can hold a trial on a crime allegedly committed in Afghanistan, he can have me renditioned and charged with contempt of court.)

But let’s get back to Dr Aafia’s case which has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with protecting the names and reputations of a collective of men and women in the US and Pakistan – from presidents past and present to lesser politicians and their craven diplomats.

And if it means sacrificing one Dr Aafia Siddiqui on the fire of their burning ambitions then these ruthless people have shown they are more than capable of doing it.

What you have to decide now is if you are a fence sitter or a fighter for justice.

Doing the right thing isn’t always easy but there is a growing army of ordinary people out there who will continue to campaign for justice for Aafia.

We will not be silent – nor will we throw in the towel after Thursday.

That is when our campaigning will really begin.

In the interests of justice, commonsense and decency let all concerned bring an end to this farce now and reunite this innocent mother with her family.

* YVONNE RIDLEY is President of European branch of the International Muslim Women’s Union and a patron of Cageprisoners.

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