American Muslim community has raised about $70,000 for Dr. Afia Siddiqui’s defense, at a fund raiser held by the Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA) which has established a special legal defense fund for Dr. Afia who is currently in detention at the Carswell Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas. She is awaiting trial and awaiting a final conclusion on her competency to stand trial. Doctors feel she is suffering due to torture. Addressing a gathering of about 300 guests at the Muslim Community Center of Santa Clara, Dr. Agha Saeed, President of Pakistan American Democratic Forum, urged the government of Pakistan to release two million dollars it pledged for the legal defense of Dr. Afia who has become a symbol of Pakistan peoples struggle for Justice. He said that at least 1.7 million dollars are required for her defense.
Dr Agha Saeed urged the Chief Justice of Pakistan to take sumo motto action for the repatriation of Dr. Afia to Pakistan. Alluding to the recent meeting of Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry with the US special envoy to Pakistan, Richard Holbrook, he expressed concern that Holbrook is pressing the Chief Justice of Pakistan not to look into Dr. Afia’s case. Highlighting the problem of missing persons, Dr. Agha Saeed said that lawyers and civil rights group say that 980 Pakistani citizens are still missing which have been picked up by the intelligence agencies. He referred to General Musharraf’s book – In the Line of Fire – where on page 237, Musharraf acknowledges that the government picked up 689 people and of which more than 300 were handed over to US for bounty. Call to find out Dr. Afia’s two missing children.
He said that there was communication to the family from purported representatives of the Pakistani intelligence services that the family members should remain quiet if they want to see Afia returned alive. That is why the family did not formally report Aafia or the three children as missing to the Pakistani authorities. Dr. Siddiqui said that we came to know about Dr. Afia after five years when Moazzam Begg, saw her in the US military detention camp Bagram, in Afghanistan. Her story was published in the British press. Tellingly, Binyam Mohamed, a British citizens released from Guantanamo Bay said last March that he witnessed the detention of Dr Afia at Bagram. Samina Faheem Sundas, Executive Director of American Muslim Voice, a leading civil advocacy group, urged the governments of Pakistan and USA to find out whereabouts of the two missing children of Dr. Afia. “This nightmare situation continues to haunt Aafia,” she added. It may be noted that Mariam, would now be about nine years of age, is an American citizen while Suleman, who would now be about six years old is a Pakistani national. Suleman was few months old when Dr. Afia disappeared along with her three kids in March 2003.
Dr Afia told that she was in Bargham that her children would be returned only if she confessed to meetings with certain people. But she refused to do so. Similarity between Hamadan and Dr. Afia cases. Attorney Charlie Swift, defense attorney of Salim Hamadan, driver of Osama Bin Laden, told the audience that there are many things common between Hamadan, and Afia’s case. It may be recalled that Attorney Charlie Swift and Attorney Neil Katyal filed a petition for habeas corpus in the US Supreme Court to challenge Hamadan’s confinement in the Guant¨¢namo Bay military prison. In June 2006, the Court issued a 5-3 decision holding that that the federal government did not have the authority to establish special military commissions. The court verdict forced the Bush administration to ask the congress in October 2008 to hastily pass the Military Commissions Act.
Attorney Swift related the intensive legal efforts to convince the Supreme Court in Hamadan’s case and said that similarly exhaustive legal efforts are required in Dr. Afia’s case. There should be forensic enquiry of the crime scene, he said adding: “There should be an in depth probe in central Afghanistan where she was said to be captured.” According to the charge sheet Dr Siddiqui was loitering outside the compound of Ghazni Governor in Afghanistan on July 17, 2008 when she was taken into custody and had in her possession numerous documents on making explosives, chemical weapons and other weapons involving biological material and neurological agents.
The attorney said that there should be a dedicated effort to uncover the truth, including interviews with Moazzam Beg who saw Afia in Bagram prison and Ammar Ali Balochi to whom Afia allegedly married as claimed by the US officials. Afia has denied marrying Balochi who is presently under detention at Guantanamo. Swift said that the government story about the circumstances of her capture were unbelievable. How a fragile woman can take a gun from the American officials and try to shoot them, he asked? According to the charge sheet, while under detention at the Bagram airbase she shot at American officials after getting hold of a rifle of one of them.
Dr. Afia’s family has now officially partnered with MLFA to secure funding and prepare for an effective legal defense. The MLFA raises funds for the legal defense of Muslim individuals and organizations. It has processed over 400 cases ranging from profiling to charity indictments. Since Muslim charitable organizations are under scrutiny since 9/11.
Attorny Swift, issued a written statement saying that donations made to support Dr Afia’s legal defense pose no risk to the donor. It may be added that President Barrack Obama, in his historic Cairo address to the Muslim world, acknowledged that the seven-million strong American Muslim community is facing problem in giving charity to the Muslim charitable organizations. “”Rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That’s why I’m committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat,” said Obama. Tellingly, on May 27, five founders of the Holy Land Foundation, once the nation’s largest Muslim charity, were given prison terms of up to sixty-five years on charges of supporting the Palestinian group Hamas. The five were never accused of supporting violence and were convicted for funding charities that aided needy Palestinians.