Pakistani terror suspect’s family accuses US of detention, rape

August 5th, 2008 - 11:00 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Arsenal
Karachi, Aug 5 (DPA) The family of a Pakistani woman extradited to the US on terror charges Tuesday sought her repatriation, terming the accusations an attempt to “cover up” her five-year illegal detention, rape and torture at a US base in Afghanistan. Aafia Siddiqui, a PhD holder from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was due in court in Manhattan Tuesday after being extradited on charges of attacking a US official July 18, after having been arrested in Afghanistan the previous day.

However, her family along with rights groups have alleged that Siddiqui and her three children were in fact arrested by Pakistani intelligence agents in Karachi in March 2003, after she was the subject of an FBI alert for alleged links with Al Qaeda.

US attorney for the southern district of New York Michael J. Gracia in a statement said Afghan police seized Siddiqui outside a government compound in Ghazni province July 17, and recovered designs for explosive devices, descriptions of US landmarks and excerpts from the “Anarchist’s Arsenal” from her handbag.

According to the complaint filed by Gracia, Siddiqui attacked a group of US officials who had come to the Afghan detention facility to interview her.

The group, consisting of FBI agents and US military personnel, entered the room where she was being held behind a curtain, whereupon Siddiqui grabbed a rifle left on the floor and aimed the weapon at an army captain.

She fired at least two shots before being secured, but failed to hit her target. At least one of two shots fired by an officer during efforts to subdue her struck her in the torso.

However, during an emotional press conference in Karachi Tuesday her sister Fauzia Siddiqui rejected this version of events.

“After five years of detention, Aafia was suddenly ‘discovered’ in Afghanistan? I am not that much of a believer in coincidence,” said her Fauzia Siddiqui, who also claimed that her sister had suffered mentally due to “extreme torture including rape”.

“Her rape and torture is a crime beyond anything she was ever accused of (which was basically nothing) and this is a slap on the honour of a whole people,” she said.

Independent rights group The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in a statement also termed the US claims as lies.

“To say that she had been taken into custody only on July 17, 2008 is a blatant lie,” it said. “The insinuation, that she had been hiding herself since 2003, is a travesty of truth.”

After completing her PhD in the US, Siddiqui returned to Pakistan in February 2003 but failed to secure employment. She reportedly returned to the US the same year, renting a post office box in her name in Maryland.

US authorities however allege that the box was hired for Majid Khan, an alleged member of Al Qaeda residing in Baltimore.

If convicted of the latest charges against her, Siddiqui faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each count of attempted murder and assault.

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