THE Pakistani Embassy in Washington is making diplomatic and legal efforts to secure the return of Dr Aafia Siddiqui to the country at the earliest under the instructions of President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. The Islamabad High Court Justice Raja Saeed Akram Khan ordered the government to work towards bringing Siddiqui home.
Husain Haqqani, Pakistani Ambassador to the US, recently met with Siddiqui in a Texas health facility, where a telephone conversation was arranged between Siddiqui and her mother, the first ever between the two in six years.
However, British journalist and patron of the human rights organization ‘Cage Prisoners’, Yvonne Ridley, says that not everyone is happy about the release order of a “woman who has been trapped in a hellish existence for the last six years.”
“The Islamabad High Court made the ground-breaking decree in a move that will be appreciated by anybody who wants to see justice delivered to a woman,” said Ridley in an exclusive interview to Saudi Gazette, in which she disclosed that she now has more evidence to prove that Siddiqui indeed is Bagram’s ‘Prisoner 650’.
Ridley condemned recent statements made by Siddiqui’s ex-husband in which he said that most of the claims about his wife are publicized and propagated in order to acquire support and sympathy for her.
“Her former husband, Dr Muhammad Amjad Khan, got a lot of media attention by claiming that the iconic pictures of Siddiqui are a hoax, and that they were stunted up by Siddiqui and her sister, Fowzia,” Ridley said to Saudi Gazette.
Requesting help in support of Siddiqui, Ridley insisted that Siddiqui was “hellishly detained in isolation by the US at its infamous Bagram Prison in Afghanistan.”
Ridley said she was ‘puzzled’ as to why Khan chose to break his silence after a period of six years. “It is not immediately obvious unless you buy the theory that he was involved in his wife’s arrest and disappearance,” she said, adding that she did not have evidence to support that theory.
Siddiqui, a neurological scientist, had been living for several years with her former husband Khan in the US. She is suspected of having links with terrorist organizations. Her sudden disappearance from Pakistan along with her three children in 2003 has been a matter of controversy.
Her whereabouts were a mystery until her name emerged in a bizarre shooting incident in a police cell in Ghazni.
She was shot by US soldiers and sent to the US for trial due to a criminal complaint against her that was filed in a New York court alleging that she attempted to kill American personnel and assaulted American officers and employees during an interrogation.
Media reports claimed that Siddiqui is ‘Prisoner 650’ who is detained at the Bagram Prison in Afghanistan and has been tortured to the extent that she became mentally unstable. Two of her children, ten-year-old Marium Khan and six-year-old Suleiman Khan, are still missing after they were removed from the detention center. However, Ahmed Khan, her eldest son was handed over last year to Siddiqui’s sister.
“Indeed it is offensive and insulting to suggest that Khan was instrumental, but I have no evidence to suggest otherwise,” said Ridley, adding that she was intrigued by Khan’s “first on-the-record interview in which he chose to give misleading information.”
The American media painted the 37-year-old Siddiqui as a dangerous person with Al-Qaeda links, who is wanted by the FBI for interrogation. She went underground in Karachi until her disputed disappearance in 2003, and, was sent to the US in August last year by US agents in Afghanistan. She is currently being treated at a government psychiatric hospital in Texas.
Ridley said she was surprised to find out on a recent visit to Pakistan that Siddiqui’s former husband has been giving out statements against Ridley. “Khan said that his former wife’s release cannot be secured by propagating stories based on falsehood and deception,” she said.
Ridley said she is unsure about Khan’s motives. She, however, has a message for him. “He must either put up or shut up,” she said.
Khan in an interview stated in particular that a photograph of Siddiqui (which shows Siddiqui in a slumped posture with her eyes closed) was shot by her sister Fowzia several years ago. He explained that her upper lip was bruised by a milk bottle in an accident and not because of torture at the Bagram Prison, as claimed by her sister.
Ridley said that she could present eyewitness accounts claiming that the woman known as ‘Prisoner 650’ held at the Bagram Prison for years is none other than Siddiqui.
“After much denying, the US authorities are now supporting my statements, and have admitted that ‘Prisoner 650’ is indeed a female detainee, whose identity is yet to be established,” she said.
The US authorities have denied that the female detainee is Siddiqui, refusing to name ‘Prisoner 650’ and the detainee’s country of return.
“In an interview of former Guantanamo detainee, Binyam Mohamed, he confirms that ‘Prisoner 650’ is Siddiqui. The link to the interview is: http://www.presstv.com/programs/player/?id=90350,” added Ridley.
In another interview, in which Ridley interview the Governor of Ghazni (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBhseSkNX68), she said she is able to prove that the pictures are not a hoax.
“The interview took place last year in the office of the Governor of Ghazni in July. He showed me a series of photographs shot on the day of Siddiqui’s arrest that he stored on his personal laptop. He said he identified Siddiqui at the Bagram Prison during his time there,” said Ridley.
She said that the footage she provided to Saudi Gazette is unedited and shot by film maker Hassan Al-Banna Ghani, who accompanied her to Pakistan and Afghanistan last year. “Viewers can at once verify the authenticity of the iconic pictures that Khan claims to be a hoax,” Ridley said.
Calling Khan a ‘liar’, she challenged him to sue her “in a court of his choice if he disagrees with her on the pictures.”
Ridley said Siddiqui’s case will soon resume in New York “if a psychologist and a physician will appeal and are able to confirm her mental fitness. Moreover, the case will also be submitted at the International Court of Justice in “The Hague,” she said.
However, Ridley questioned the legality of the New York trial, saying: “Indeed, Siddiqui has to face the trial in the US because she was put on a rendition flight to America and was not extradited.” – SG