Another Week in the Aafia Siddiqui Trial

February 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By ondelette, seminal.firedoglake.com

kangaroo_court It’s been a long week in the “terrorism” trial in Manhattan. A week which ended with first Mayor Bloomberg then President Obama backing away from trying any more terrorists there. Which is what the commentators wanted all along, Michelle Malkin and her supporters, that is. Aafia Siddiqui, about whom very few people cared for years, has suddenly become the cause célèbre for those who want suspects waterboarded, new courts formed, military tribunals held, and prisoners kept indefinitely for the duration of a conflict they will never end. Never mind that nobody knows for sure how indefinitely she’s been held already. Or that her accusers are looking more and more like the guilty parties. She may just be convicted on fear or is it hate?

As always, Petra Bartosiewicz is doing an excellent job of blogging the trial. Her daily blogs are at CagePrisoners.

I wrote already about Monday, when the nameless but very sympathy evoking injured Chief Warrant Officer testified. And the medic testified and was questioned about a statement given to the FBI five days after the incident in which she reported being told that the Captain would get “fried” if anyone found out it was his gun, but the Chief Warrant Officer wouldn’t. Ms. Siddiqui also, in one of her increasingly perceptive “outbursts” claimed she was shot by somebody else. Hustle her out again.

The defense began their case, thus, with the prosecution having failed to substantiate that the M-4 was ever fired, and with conflicting testimony about how she supposedly fired it, and with testimony about two alleged holes in the wall from the M-4 bullets, but no casings or bullet pieces, and the prosecution’s own forensics expert saying there was no proof an M-4 was ever fired in the room.

So they brought on a forensics expert who has examined hundreds of such gunfire scenes and testified on behalf of the government about them. He testified that in his judgment the holes were not from M-4 bullets and that he doubted they were from gunfire at all. Remember that, because it isn’t clear the jury did.

The defense’s other witness testified by video, meaning a video tape of testimony from Ghazni. He was the Afghan counterterrorism chief, and he was at the scene, and he was there before the Americans arrived, and he clearly testified that Ms. Siddiqui did not pick up a gun or shoot at anyone, rather the Americans went behind the curtain where she was, three shots were fired, and Ms. Siddiqui went down with gunshot wounds, and was suddenly being whisked away by the Americans, Hamid Karzai on his way notwithstanding.

The defense sent letters to the judge to prevent their client from testifying on grounds that her mental state was degenerated, and that she would likely talk about negotiating with the Taliban which would work against her with the jury. The prosecution insisted on giving her her constitutional rights to take the stand. Probably the first time since she was arrested in Ghazni, but not the only time this week, that the government cared about rights of the accused. They held a hearing with the jury sequestered, and the judge asked Aafia Siddiqui if she could remain on the subject and understood the proceedings. Probably the first time since Judge Berman got on the trial that he cared enough to ask her if she understood the proceedings, since he pointedly didn’t during her competency hearings which were all about — whether she understood the proceedings.

But wait, there is another issue, and this one was so glaring during the competency hearings as to make one hang one’s head in shame at the state of American rule of law. It regards the FBI transcripts, two page write-ups by the day of her interrogation while in the Craig Field Hospital in Bagram, starting with the day she got there, apparently. The timeline for her transportation came out in the prosecution’s testimony, she was operated on in the field at 1am on July 19th, and then transported to Bagram and placed in a room with 24/7 lights and three cameras, on a four-point restraint bed. The interrogation logs begin with that morning which was — when she arrived?

So the judge and the defense team asked Aafia Siddiqui about those interrogations. She (the defense must have been thanking their stars) reported, and later also testified with the jury present, that she was dizzy the whole time, that she was on morphine and percocet the whole time, that she was denied sleep the whole time, that she was worried about her daughter and other children the whole time, that the male interrogator threatened her that she told them everything or she would be handed over to “the really bad guys” and watched when they opened her clothing to change her dressings, that she was dependent on her interrogators for food, water, to use the toilet, that she had no idea they were agents because everybody had their badges turned backwards that entered her room, and that she was not Mirandized until she got to New York and saw no consulate representatives (the “equivalent right” to Miranda when not in the United States), and that she thought she was headed back to the secret prison the prosecution so dearly wants expunged from her “outbursts”. They so dearly want to admit the FBI notes that “prove” she was never held incommunicado, that she was in Karachi the whole time. They who have their own problems with FBI transcripts which seem to indicate that the soldiers and FBI agents in the room in Ghazni are covering up a cold-blooded shooting or a panic shooting of a prisoner who, in terms of the military who shot her, was a civilian and a prisoner and hors de combat regardless.

So, upon hearing that the defendant was drugged, deprived of sleep, in a stress position, and threatened and believed her children threatened, ruled that her comments in such a situation were “voluntary and knowing”, and the FBI transcripts could be used to impugn her testimony. After all, the Supreme Court declined to review an opinion about prisoner abuse not on American soil, the jury is so petrified that jurors who are pointed to or spoken to are in fear for their lives, and the family’s advocate, International Justice Network’s Tina Foster, has said that regardless of how weak the prosecution’s case, which currently looks like a flea circus, it all comes down to whether an American jury can acquit a woman with a scarf covering her face.

Aafia Siddiqui’s testimony was by all accounts lucid and to the point. She preliminarily testified about her childhood and education, and when she got to the matter of the trial, mentioned that she had moral objections to the trial but testified anyway. [For those new to the case, her moral objections include that $2 million in Pakistani money is being spent on her even though she believes she will be convicted anyway, which she believes should go to the poor, and that she believes it is her accusers who should be on trial -- for shooting her.] She testified that she peaked through the curtain with the thought of trying to escape because she was sure they would take her back to “the secret prison”, and then she was shot, she says, by two people, and hit twice. She heard them say, “We’re taking this bitch with us,” passed out and went in and out on the way to Bagram, but heard someone say that a couple of people would lose their jobs if she died.

The prosecution tried to impugn her testimony by asking about the contents of her bag, she said it wasn’t her bag, and the notes were things she was ordered to copy from a magazine in the “secret prison”. And when they asked about her shooting ability, and simultaneously put up a slide of a picture of a gun from her “notes” for effect, I guess, she asked that the slide be taken down, that she never drew it, and told the prosecuting attorney Jenna Dabbs, “You can’t build a case on hate, you should build it on fact.” Needless to say, the line was carried in much of the press as an incoherent outburst. To my mind, it was the most lucid comment since this whole sorry detention of people as information units, torture, incommunicado enforced disappearance solitary confinement sleep deprivation, drugging, threatening, enhanced interrogation, child torture, desecration of the Constitution and international treaties began.

Lamely, the prosecution put another witness on the stand, this one a gun range instructor from Braintree, Mass, whom the FBI found apparently two weeks ago by asking if he recognized a picture of her, and he did. He testified that she took a 12 hour NRA sanctioned course on pistol shooting and fired “400 to 1200 rounds” during the course (she says she never took that course, but took one in physical conditioning). He has no records of her taking it, supposedly in 1990, no certificates issued, no record of it at the NRA, nothing, he just recognizes one student, out of all of them, after 20 years and seems to have just remembered it. Not sure why that’s supposed to prove that nothing Aafia Siddiqui says can be trusted, maybe it’s the “white guy who’s a member of the NRA” v. “brown woman in a chadoor” thingy. I’m so confused. Apparently, when the prosecution presents its case, the prosecution calls witnesses to the stand, and when the defense presents its case, the prosecution calls witnesses to the stand. Or something.

But Michelle Malkin’s rantings that this trial proved you couldn’t try terrorists in New York City got amplified all over the internet and in newspapers and television stations around the country last week, until Mayor Bloomberg and President Obama pulled the plug and will move the trials. Is it just me, or should a brown girl like her worry just a leeetle bit more about convicting brown girls for nothing at all but being different?

Of course, all of this has played in the foreign press, and to the Pakistanis, this is confirmation both of her innocence and of her incarceration and torture. You see, if the events in the room in Ghazni are not as the Americans say, and few in Pakistan believed they were anyway, and if Pakistani journalists are denied access to the trial and have to watch it in another room on video, and if Pakistanis have been put on a list in the last month of people who require special searching by the TSA at American airports, and if now the prosecution looks like it is covering up a cowardly shooting by a room full of American soldiers of an unarmed 100lb woman who disappeared during a time when their president bragged about making money selling Pakistanis to the Americans, what’s not to believe? If there is a guilty verdict in the courtroom in Manhattan after what’s transpired there, the world, at least for the few billion in Asia, will see that Americans no longer believe in human rights and the rule of law. It’s as simple as that.

So it was no surprise on Friday, when Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudry of the Lahore High Court ordered the barrister handling the Aafia Siddiqui case there on behalf of her family (which is related to a Senate inquiry to press charges against the former president and head of the national police for kidnapping and rendition into torture — to wit, to the Americans), to send any and all evidence he has on her disappearance, to her defense attorneys in the United States, and that after 7 years, police investigators returned to the scene of the abduction with Ahmed Siddiqui, the New York defendant’s eldest son.

In the eyes of the U.S. Department of Justice, Aafia Siddiqui, the dangerous terrorist “Lady al Qaeda”, is on trial for attempted murder. In the eyes of the world, the United States of America is on trial for abduction, black sites, torture, and attempted murder to cover it up.

You can’t build a case on hate, you should build it on fact.

Maybe that’s why she thought she could change things by talking to President Obama.

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Case Against Aafia Siddiqui Begins to Unravel

January 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

PressTV

The case against Pakistani citizen Aafia Siddiqui, who is charged with attempted murder of FBI agents and US military personnel, is beginning to unravel as witnesses have offered conflicting accounts in testimony delivered at her trial.

The long-awaited trial of Siddiqui began in a federal courtroom in New York on Tuesday.

On January 21, which was the second day of the trial, Assistant US Attorney Jenna Dabbs showed jurors numerous photographs of the room of the Afghan police station where the shooting allegedly took place, and a photo of the cell where Siddiqui was held when she was first brought to the station on July 17, 2008, the independent online news network Mathaba reported.

But Carlo Rosati, an FBI firearms expert who testified in the federal court on Friday, expressed doubts whether the M-4 rifle, which was allegedly grabbed by Aafia Siddiqui to attack US interrogators in Ghazni, Afghanistan, was ever fired at the crime scene, the Associated Press of Pakistan said.

In addition, on the third of the trial, an FBI agent testified that the FBI did not find Aafia Siddiqui’s fingerprints on the rifle.

No Pakistanis reporters were granted press credentials when opening statements began on Tuesday.

The MIT-educated neuroscientist is currently on trial, facing charges of trying to kill US soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan in 2008 and connections with Al-Qaeda operatives.

She insisted on the first day of the trial that she knew nothing about a plan to carry out terrorist attacks on targets in New York, The New York Daily News reported.

“Give me a little credit, this is not a list of targets of New York,” she said. “I was never planning to bomb it. You’re lying.”

Siddiqui told jurors at her trial on Tuesday that she was held in a secret prison in Afghanistan, her children were tortured, and the case against her is a sham.

She was ejected from the federal court on the first day of here trial after her shouting outburst.

Siddiqui vanished in Karachi, Pakistan with her three children on March 30, 2003. The next day it was reported in local newspapers that she had been taken into custody on terrorism charges.

US officials allege Aafia Siddiqui was seized on July 17, 2008 by Afghan security forces in Ghazni province and claim that documents, including formulas for explosives and chemical weapons, were found in her handbag.

They say that while she was being interrogated, she grabbed a US warrant officer’s M-4 rifle and fired two shots at FBI agents and military personnel but missed and that the warrant officer then fired back, hitting her in the torso.

She was then brought to the United States to face charges of attempted murder and assault. Siddiqui faces 20 years in prison if convicted.

However, human rights organizations have cast doubt on the accuracy of the US account of the event.

Many political activists believe she was Prisoner 650 of the US detention facility in Bagram, Afghanistan, where they say she was tortured for five years until one day US authorities announced that they had found her in Afghanistan.

JR/HGL

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Assassination of Martin Luther King

January 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

www.ratical.com

martin-luther-king-and-malcolm-x1 The story of Martin Luther King’s assassination, and the 1999 trial where the truth of this event was finally revealed in a court of law is now encapsulated in Dr. William F. Pepper’s new book, released by Verso this month: An Act of State – The Execution of Martin Luther King. The dust jacket summarizes what many have intuitively known for more than thirty years:

“William Pepper, attorney and friend of Dr. King and the King family, became convinced after years of investigation that not only was Ray not the shooter, but that King had been targeted as part of a larger conspiracy to stop the anti-war movement, and to prevent King from gaining momentum in his promising Poor People’s Campaign. Ten years into his investigation, in 1988, Pepper agreed to represent Ray.

While he was never able to successfully appeal the sentence before Ray’s death, he was able to build an air-tight case against the real perpetrators. In 1999, Loyd Jowers and co-conspirators were brought to trial in a wrongful death civil action suit on behalf of the King family. Seventy witnesses set out the details of the conspiracy in a plot to murder King that involved J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI, Richard Helms and the CIA, the military, the local Memphis police, and organized crime figures from New Orleans and Memphis. The evidence was unimpeachable. The jury took an hour to find for the King family. But the silence following these shocking revelations was deafening. Like the pattern during all the investigations of the assassination throughout the years, no major media outlet would cover the story. It was effectively buried.

“Until now, the details, evidence, and personalities of all these nefarious characters have gone unreported. In An Act of State, you finally have the truth before you — how the United States government effectively shut down one of the most galvanizing movements for social change by stopping its leader dead in his tracks.”

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