Pakistan protests US court verdict on neuroscientist

September 24th, 2010 - 7:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Yousuf Raza Gilani By Awais Saleem
Islamabad, Sep 24 (IANS) Top Pakistani leaders have protested the sentencing by a US court of a Pakistani-origin neuroscientist to 86 years in prison on charges of being a suicide bomber and having links with the Al Qaeda.

Aafia Siddiqui, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduate, was arrested in 2008 from Afghanistan on suspicions of being a suicide bomber and was accused of carrying sensitive information about US installations and explosive material with her.

She was also charged with an attempt to assault US investigators at the time of the investigations and firing at will by grabbing an unattended rifle.

After a trial in the US federal court in New York, Siddiqui was sentenced Thursday to 86 years in prison on seven different charges.

The verdict has been received with severe criticism in Pakistan where there is deep sympathy for Siddiqui and many people there feel she may have been framed.

Top Pakistani officials and legislators have also joined in the vociferous demands for her return to Pakistan.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, addressing the senate Friday, said the government had spent $2 million on the legal battle in the US and was determined to do everything it could to bring her back.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the government would take up the matter with US authorities to demand Siddiqui’s return to Pakistan as a prisoner.

Meanwhile, Fozia Siddiqui, sister of Aafia, has alleged that the government did not try to defend Aafia properly during the legal battle.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has even said if there are any charges against Aafia Siddiqui, she could be tried in Pakistan. “The Musharraf regime shamelessly handed over the daughter of the land to the US,” he said.

Talha Mahmood, chairman of the standing committee on interior affairs, condemned the US for the verdict.

“I met her in the US prison and saw the brutal torture marks,” he said adding that the Pakistan government failed to take up this matter forcefully with the US.

Several protests were also staged Friday in different cities of Pakistan.

Police resorted to shelling at protesters in Karachi and Islamabad, while security around US consulates and other important buildings was beefed up to ward off any threat.

(Awais Saleem can be contacted at ians.pakistan@gmail.com)

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