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Aafia Siddiqui: New Information from IJN

Composite image of Aafia Siddiqui created by FBI for use on a poster. (source: Wikipedia)

Last night, Victoria Brittain of the Guardian published advanced information that the International Justice Network would be publishing a major whistleblowing report on Aafia Siddiqui at “6am EDT” this morning.  It is up on the International Justice Network site now.  The report itself, and Appendix A, which is the transcript of the audio tape in English, are accessible, I wasn’t able to get to the audio itself, perhaps all of Pakistan is trying to listen to it.  For those not familiar with IJN, Tina Foster is their Executive Director, she is the family attorney for the Siddiqui family (not one of the lawyers who represented Aafia Siddiqui in court).  She and other lawyers from IJN, including Barbara Olshansky, have represented Bagram inmates before the courts trying to get habeas corpus rights in the al Maqaleh et al case, they also do work in human rights cases in other places, such as Namibia and in the Philippines.

The report has both details from the tape and details from her children and family and of her hospitalization in Bagram that are revealing and sickening, mostly with respect to the FBI.  The person interviewed on the tape is one of the agents who arrested Aafia Siddiqui in March 2003.  He confirms the presence of a female American FBI agent who slapped Aafia Siddiqui during the arrest, confirms her dress and confirms that she was handed over to the Pakistani ISI.  He says that she was held for 2 years by Pakistani ISI and questioned by the FBI, he believes.  He confirms that the numerous reports of her surfacing and of her marriage to Ammar al Baluchi were planted in the media, he confirms that the children were held separately, and that she was dropped off in Ghazni with her son prior to her 2008 arrest and did not really know it was her son, and had been given the bags with which she was arrested.

The report then adds detail to some other things.  It confirms Yvonne Ridley’s contention that Ahmed Siddiqui was told by a U.S. Consular Official in Afghanistan prior to being sent to his aunt’s custody in Pakistan in 2008 that his name was Ahmed Siddiqui and “your brother is dead”.  It confirms that Maryam Siddiqui spoke only English with an American accent when she was found wandering in Karachi near her grandmother’s place in 2010, and the tape confirms she was held in a prison for children run by Americans where they spoke only English.  . . .

The report adds details to the conditions of Aafia Siddiqui’s interrogations at Craig Field Hospital in Bagram after she had been shot in the abdomen in July 2008, and before she was rendered to Brooklyn, N.Y., and I’d like to spend some time on this because it is so wildly different from the testimony in her competency hearing and the rulings Judge Berman made on her torture on which a large amount of her treatment, trial, and sentence has turned.  Here is the quote from the report in its entirety:

Dr. Siddiqui then spent approximately two weeks at the hospital recovering from her injuries. While in recovery, she experienced tremendous pain, for which she was put on heavy doses of medication. The medications included Morphine and Percocet. Dr. Siddiqui’s freedom of movement was also severely limited over this period. Her arms and legs were tied to the four posts of the bed, with her legs kept far apart in a very uncomfortable position.

While at the hospital, the only individuals regularly present in Dr. Siddiqui’s room were FBI Special Agents Bruce Kamerman and Angela Sercer, neither of whom identified themselves as FBI Agents to Dr. Siddiqui. These agents controlled Dr. Siddiqui’s medication and she had to ask their permission to eat or go to the bathroom. Special Agent Bruce Kamerman also insisted on monitoring Dr. Siddiqui when she changed clothes or had her wounds dressed, which made her extremely uncomfortable. In addition, he consistently entered Dr. Siddiqui’s room at night— when he was not supposed to—and often remained there throughout the night. This caused Dr. Siddiqui serious sleep deprivation.

Throughout her time at the Craig Joint Theater Hospital, Dr. Siddiqui was not allowed to speak to her family by telephone. She also did not receive a single visit from Pakistani Government officials and was never informed of her right to an attorney or her right to consular access under the Vienna Conventions.

The FBI claims that while restrained and still in pain and on medication at the hospital at Bagram, Dr. Siddiqui made several admissions to Agents Kamerman and Sercer. According to their reports, Dr. Siddiqui admitted that, in December 2002, she travelled to the United States to open a post office box for suspected Al Qaeda member Majid Khan. They also claim that she admitted to having married a man named Ammar Al-Baluchi in 2003 (an alleged Al-Qaeda operative), and to have been issued a fatwa by Mufti Abu Lubaba in 2006 to study germ warfare.

These allegations have been repeated over and over again in news stories over the years. However, the only evidence that the U.S. Government has ever presented regarding these claims are Aafia’s “confessions.” These “confessions” were purportedly obtained by FBI Agents Kammerman and Sercer while Dr. Siddiqui was hospitalized at Bagram, where she wasrecovering from gunshot wounds and surgery. Dr. Siddiqui denies ever having made these statements, and IJN is aware of no other evidence that they are true. In light of the Governmentof Pakistan’s past complicity in Dr. Siddiqui’s initial arrest, it is in a position to dispel any misinformation about when, where, and by whom, Dr. Siddiqui was first interrogated after herdisappearance in March 2003.

What is disturbing about this, in addition to it being disturbing in and of itself, is that the daily “reports” of these two agents, Kammerman and Sercer, not the transcripts of their interrogations but the reports of them filed by these agents, from these two weeks, form the backbone of the testimony by government psychiatrists Leslie Powers and Gregory Saathoff that her allegations of prior torture and confinement were a fabrication and that she was malingering — presented at her competency hearings, but subsequently used during her trial to suppress the numerous attempts to bring up her prior torture, and quite possibly some of the years of her sentence for untruthful statements made.  Between pages 120 and 130 of her competency hearings transcript (not online), Dr. Johnson (MDC psychiatrist who originally diagnosed her as having symptoms of major depression, hallucinations and PTSD consistent with torture) admits under cross-examination that he changed his diagnosis to “malingering” after consultation with Dr. Saathoff convinced him, upon being shown the FBI reports, that she was lying to him about having been abducted and tortured for 5 years and fearing that her children were imprisoned and tortured.

So at the very least, these two agents extracted false information that became the backbone of a prosecution case in federal court, having used the lack of due process entitlement of a non-U.S. citizen outside the U.S. to deliberately not “Mirandize” their detainee. But having been in control of her morphine and Percocet, and it having been the male agent who watched her dress (it had always been assumed it was the female prior to this report), and having subjected her to sleep deprivation in addition to questioning her under duress of extreme pain and, by her own statement, leading her to believe her children were on the line for her responses, under 4 point restraints, for two weeks, this is hardly evidence that should have been admissible in court, let alone the backbone of a trial.

In fact, the behavior of Bruce Kammerman in particular is sexual abuse, and the treatment of both special agents is cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and the sleep deprivation during recovery from surgery, the threat and medication control for the interrogation, raise the whole thing to the level of torture, both under common Article 3 and under any other applicable international law.  It’s pretty debatable as to who should have been on trial in the Foley Square court room in the first place, since the warrant officer shot an unarmed civilian detainee, it now seems, given that the IJN report also references a Wikileaked DoD document showing that the military knows Aafia Siddiqui never fired a weapon in Ghazni.

But at least with the tape, there is no longer any doubt that she was taken or held. The only questions are when the U.S. and Pakistan are going to come clean.

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