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Family alleges Aafia was tortured

06 August, 2008

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KARACHI: The family of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, a MIT-educated neurosurgeon who had gone missing with her three children in 2003 from Karachi, expressed shock on Tuesday after it emerged that she had been extradited to the United States on charges of shooting at US soldiers while in detention in Afghanistan.

Addressing a news conference at the press club here, her younger sister Dr Fauzia Siddiqui angrily insisted that Aafia was innocent and accused US forces of secretly holding her for the last five years.

“What a mockery that after five years in detention Aafia is suddenly discovered in Afghanistan,” Dr Fauzia Siddiqui said. “We are very shocked and depressed. It is very alarming for the family,” she added. “Her absence has given us great pain for the last five years and we have been looking for her and her children.”

Fearing for her life, Dr Fauzia said: “My sister has been accused of many criminal cases by US officials and her life is in danger. She is innocent, not a terrorist.” She accused the Pakistani authorities of deliberately maintaining a silence over her abduction while her family had made desperate attempts to find her whereabouts and secure safe release.

Sitting beside Human Rights Commission of Pakistan vice-president Iqbal Haider, an emotional Dr Fauzia demanded of the Pakistani government to prove allegations against Aafia. “Soon after her disappearance we sent applications to all the government authorities, including the president, the prime minister, the Senate chairman, political leaders and the courts, pleading for her safe return, but they assured us that she was not in the custody of any agency,” she explained.

“When a foreign journalist pointed out the possibility of the presence of Dr Aafia in US custody in Afghanistan, we approached FBI officials to find her whereabouts. They assured us that they will look into the matter, but they were only misleading us,” she said.

Dr Fauzia added: “Aafia was tortured for five years until one day the US authorities announced that they have found her in Afghanistan, which shows how they abused their power and tortured an innocent woman.”

The family has no news of Aafia’s three children, who went missing with her, she said. Fauzia Siddiqui also said the family had received death threats, warning them not to talk about the case.

She exhorted that some 500 people who had gone missing from the country over the last four years might have been detained by the same agencies and demanded their immediate release.

AFP adds: “Our lives are in serious danger,” she said. “We are receiving threats through phone calls and SMS not to discuss or pursue Aafia’s case. I do not know the people threatening us.” she said.

HRCP vice-president Iqbal Haider offered complete support to Dr Aafia’s parents. He said the HRCP had approached the US State Department and the Pakistani government officials but all of them have denied her presence.

Now after five years it has been declared that Dr Aafia has been recovered from Afghanistan with false charges, which is condemnable, he said. “It is shameful. It is a crime committed by the US State Department officials. It should be condemned widely,” Haider said.

Haider said the charges were “false and fabricated” and called for Aafia’s trial by an independent tribunal. “We demand that Aafia’s trial should not take place in Guantanamo Bay. We demand that Aafia’s relations be allowed immediate access to her,” Haider said.

End.

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