Dear Mr. President Obama,
Re: Conviction of Dr Afia Siddiqui, a female Muslim Pakistani Doctor (PhD)
Association of Pakistani Lawyers a team of Pakistani origin lawyers, Solicitors, Barristers, Judges in UK wrote to you on 5 November 2008 congratulating you on your remarkable, historic victory for change in the United Sates, and in return in the World. In particular we emphasized in our letter that, "America needs to offer hope to the community of nation and revitalize its efforts to jointly consult with the world if it ever desire to come closer to victory on its drive against extremism. No doubt, 9/11 was the most tragic and most condemnable attack on civilization by criminals and proportionate use of force, revival of United Nations role, protecting the sovereignty of independent nations, joint intelligence sharing mechanism and collective wisdom is the key to defeat this menace".
In this light of the above we have a cause to write to you on behalf of the Pakistani & Muslim community on the issue of Dr Afia Siddiqui's Conviction & sentence. APL) an Association of Pakistani origin Solicitors, Barristers, Judges and ex pat members has taken a serious note Dr Afia Siddiqui's sentence on 23 September 2010 for 86 years and her earlier conviction of 3 February 2010 by Jury of 12 men at USA and has declared her treatment inhuman and her trial unfair in USA. Her sentence of 86 years may result in a stumbling block between US-Pak people to people contact and relations between states. APL Chair said that US system of justice is able to dispense justice and Dr Afia Siddiqui needed justice which must be seen to be done and no better but through US courts and at the moment unlike British courts , US judicial system has failed Dr Afia Siddiqui, her family and millions eyeing on the trial across the globe.
APL observed that Dr Afia was kidnapped and kept at Bagram Airfield without the aid of a lawyer, doctor and or consulate access for years and her being a female, Muslim women that has the potential to charge the mood of the public.
USA is already making efforts to bridge the gap between the people of Pakistan and US Administration and Dr. Afia's conviction will wipe out all efforts and this decision seems to have dictated through fears than the facts and law. Dr Afia is demonized as 'Al-Qaeda' lady or in official circles as 'the grey lady of Bagram' without substance of her association or affiliation as Association with Al-Qaeda itself is a criminal offence and that avenue has not been pursued. Under the circumstances she may never get a fair trial from the jury due to 9/11 as in built prejudice against the perpetrators of the 9/11 makes it impossible to allow a fair hearing against anyone who is allegedly portrayed by media or through whisper campaign to be an associate of that outfit no matter how much it is denied. Though, we agree that USA has failed to prove or at least bring it open the limits of her engagements.
APL feels that as has been witnessed in UK that many convictions were overturned by the court of appeal considering it either excessive or unsafe on the narrow interpretation of law, and or due to fear of miscarriage of justice, similarly we feel that common sense will prevail at higher court(s) at appeal where the conviction will be quashed as circumstances of Dr Afia's case are highly contested, and incredible. In principles of law Dr Afia should not have been at Bagram at first place, where she was detained as prisoner no.650 and there was no record, mention and or trial at a place of her kidnapping and or arrest (Karachi), and or place of her first detention (Ghazni) and there are allegation(s) of torture. Now either the public knows the half truth in this case and or the US authorities are concealing material facts from the court(s) in relation to Dr Afia Siddiqui which calls for a greater insight and or enquiry.
APL feel that Dr. Afia's conviction of 3 February 2010 and her sentence of 23 September is a decision of a court of law of first instance which on the face of it and in principle must be respected, but we all have disagreements / reservations on rational reasons with the judgments as is in any society, and that's why we have appeal system. Lack of concrete evidence (DNA / fingerprints) linking her with the Weapon, and her mysterious whereabouts and accounts of arrest and allegations of torture and unlawful confinement without access to his lawyers, doctors, and consulate staff all call for a fair appeal in this matter and or presidential intervention on humanitarian grounds, as if her account of arrest is right, she has already spent nearly 10 years equivalent of her sentence counting day and nights in a prison cell (pre trial). US system of justice is able to dispense justice and Dr Afia Siddiqui needs justice which must be seen to be done and no better but through US courts which must show its inherited powers and allow her a fair hearing on appeal meeting the norms of the Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights 1950 which allows any person to have a fair trial.
If court decisions are allowed to be dictated by fears or through prejudices, then I am afraid the future of our multi religious & cultural societies is bleak and onus falls on American administration to either grant presidential pardon, release her to allow her to go home freely or USA's criminal justice system who are at a crossroad to produce some tangible results in their system through its institutions assuring minority community of justice and fair play.
APL is of the view that looking at the past and the case of Brown v Board of Education, 347 US 483 (1954) where so rightly Supreme Court gave decision against segregation of white and Black children in the public state school solely on the basis of race because that segregation was against the principle of equal protection of law guaranteeing Fourteenth Amendment, and at this juncture based on the past knowledge, APL is of the view that US justice system can ensure justice with Muslim minorities in USA similarly as they did with the black minorities during the race war in the past, and they need to prove it by action(s) not words.
APL is also of the view that political administration is also fairly capable to separate the chaff from grain and Dr Afia's case is a fine example where political administration must exercise their judgment call to ensure administrative fairness with the 'Grey lady of Bagram' who has been in detention for years before trial could take place.
APL with that hope jointly has decided to approach your kind intervention on this very sensitive issue pertaining to Pakistani community here in UK, USA and abroad, and has the following resolution(s);
Resolution of Demand:
1. Govt of United States must consider withdrawing charges against Dr Afia Siddiqui and her repatriation to Pakistan forthwith; or alternately;
2. Govt of United States must consider Presidential pardon for Dr Afia Siddiqui as she has been missing and or confined allegedly since 2003 and there is no account of her missing time in Bagram airfield and her conviction is unsafe considering the state of mind and or issues of serious allegation(s) of torture and maltreatment; or
3. Govt of United States must consider appealing this decision as it is an unsafe judgemnet as post 9/11 putting people of New York in a position of jurors to find a question of guilty/not guilty of a person who is highly publicised as allegedly associated with internationally notorious outfit (AL-Qaeda) is unreasonable and rules of natural justice and norms of Art.6 of the European Convention on Human Rights 1950 has not been met. looking at the case of Brown v Board of Education, 347 US 483 (1954) where so rightly Supreme Court gave decision against segregation of white and Black children in the public state school solely on the basis of race because that segregation was against the principle of equal protection of law guaranteeing Fourteenth Amendment, at this juncture based on the past knowledge, I am sure, USA can ensure justice with Muslim minorities (its a test case in that scenario); There is overwhelming evidence of making this conviction unsafe i.e lack of DNA / finger prints evidence of her linking to the rifle, her unlawful presence at Bagram as the account of her arrest is not credible, discrepancies between the accounts of Interpreter, and other two witnesses, and no empty shells of the bullets fired were presented at court all makes the conviction unsafe; and these questions must be put to rest which questions the prosperity of US criminal justice system to be fair to Muslims post 9/11 as is the case in UK where many convictions were overturned by superior courts declaring them unsafe and excessive;
4. Govt of United States must consider prisoner exchange with the Govt of Pakistan as in the past many prisoners from Pakistan has been shifted to USA without judicial oversight, and on the similar approach Dr Afia Siddiqui must be returned to Pakistan to remain in Pakistani custody whilst the issue of her case (withdrawal/appeal and or pardon) are considered at home in USA as she has already spent many years in confinement and her return would ease her sufferings and will avoid hampering United States effort to increase people to people contact and efforts to winning the hearts and minds of the Pakistani people.
5. Govt of United States must consider setting up a commission to adjudicate the questions of true facts surrounding Dr Afia's arrest, allegations of torture and mal treatment at Bagram airfield, and the issue of extra judicial and extra territorial confinement and imprisonment at Bagram where there are allegations that CIA paid huge monies to Pak officials for making successful arrests and Gen. Musharraf accepted that fact in his book, (in the line of fire). Dr Afia is a female, Muslim lady from Pakistan who is a highly educated (PhD from Brandeis University 2001) and has been either bought via CIA and or arrested in dubious circumstances at Pakistan and or Afghanistan; she has been strip searched, allegedly maltreated, interrogated mostly without lawyers , proper examination of a female doctor, and or consulate access at Afghanistan and has been shifted to USA without her consent. How come she was shown to be at Bagram in 2008 when people had knowledge of her whereabouts as prisoner no 650 prior to that date makes it desirable to settle the facts once for all to ease the people of Pakistan as this is the kind of material if remain uncertain acts as prima facie fodder for radicalisation which needs to be put at rest through proper enquiry. Incidents like Abu Gharib force APL to say that the allegation of such nature may not be easily refuted without an independent oversight or an enquiry. Enquiry into findings of fact will pave way for clarity and dispensation of fair trial ensuring justice which is seen to be done in future.
We hope our representations are given due weight in the interest of public in order to promote rule of law, justice and true accountability of the forces and in order to fill the gaps between ancient civilizations who are at a crossroad to mend fences and be friends for the greater good of mankind and for the sake of humanity.
If we can be of any assistance, we may be contacted at APLRochdale@aol.com or at 00-44-1706 346011.
Barrister Amjad Malik,
Life Member SCBA (Pakistan)
Saturday, September 25, 2010