Wikileaks: Numerous Reasons to Dismiss US Claims that “Ghost Prisoner” Aafia Siddiqui Was Not Held in Bagram

From: Andy Worthington
Exclusive to the Justice for Aafia Coalition

3.12.10

In sifting through the avalanche of US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, only the Guardian, in the Western media, has picked up on cables from Islamabad relating to the case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani neuroscientist who disappeared with her three young children in Karachi on March 30, 2003, and did not reappear until July 17, 2008, in Ghazni, Afghanistan, where she was reportedly arrested by Afghan forces for acting strangely, allegedly carrying a bag that contained a list of US targets for terrorist attacks as well as bomb-making instructions and assorted chemicals. When US soldiers turned up, Dr. Siddiqui then reportedly seized a gun and shot at them. Although she failed to hit her targets, at point-blank range, she was herself shot twice in the abdomen, and was then rendered to the United States, where she was put on trial for attempted murder, and was convicted and given an 86-year prison sentence in September this year.

Dr. Siddiqui’s supporters, and many commentators — myself included — who have examined her story have, for many years, had reason to doubt the official narrative about her capture in 2008, and her whereabouts for the previous five years.

While both the Pakistani and US authorities repeatedly denied that Dr. Siddiqui was in their custody between 2003 and 2008, and this is reiterated in one of the cables released by Wikileaks, in which US diplomats in Pakistan stated that “Bagram officials have assured us that they have not been holding Siddiqui for the last four years, as has been alleged,” several former prisoners — and one still held — have stated that they saw her in Bagram. The following exchange is an excerpt from an interview conducted by former prisoner Moazzam Begg with Binyam Mohamed, the British resident who was subjected to torture in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan, after his release from Guantánamo in February 2009:

Moazzam Begg: When you were in the Bagram Detention Facility after being held in the “Dark Prison,” you came across a female prisoner. Can you describe a little bit about who you think she is and what you saw of her?
  
Binyam Mohamed: In Bagram, I did come across a female who wore a shirt with the number of “650,” and I saw her several times, and I heard a lot of stories about her from the guards and the other prisoners over there.

 Moazzam Begg: And these stories said what about her, in terms of her description and her background?

 Binyam Mohamed: What we were told first … we were frightened by the guards not to communicate with her, because they feared that we would talk to her and we would know who she was. So they told us that she was a spy from Pakistan, working with the government, and the Americans brought her to Bagram.

 Moazzam Begg: So you think they spread the rumour that she was a spy … that would have kept you away from her and apprehensive towards her?

 Binyam Mohamed: Basically, nobody talked to her in the facility, and she was held in isolation, where … she was only brought out to the main facility just to use the toilet. But all I knew about her was that she was from Pakistan, and that she had studied, or she had lived in America. And the guards would talk a lot about her, and I did actually see her picture when I was here a few weeks ago, and I would say she’s the very person I saw in Bagram.

 Moazzam Begg: And that’s the very picture I showed you of Aafia Siddiqui?

 Binyam Mohamed: That’s the very picture I saw.

 Moazzam Begg: There have been all sorts of rumours about what happened to her — and may Allah free her soon — but part of those rumours include her being terribly abused. Do you have any knowledge of what abuse she might have faced?

 Binyam Mohamed: Apart from her being in isolation — and the fact that I saw, when she was walking up and down, I could tell that she was severely disturbed — I don’t think she was in her right mind — literally, I don’t think she was sane — and I didn’t feel anything at that time, because, as far as I was concerned, she was a hypocrite working with the other governments. But had we known that she was a sister, I don’t think we would have been silent. I think there would have been a lot of maybe even riots in Bagram.

In March 2010, at a rally organized by the Justice for Aafia Coalition, former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Deghayes stated that, as well as Binyam Mohamed, Hassan bin Attash (a former child prisoner who is still held in Guantánamo) and Dr. Ghairat Baheer (a former “ghost prisoner” held in various secret prisons in Afghanistan) also described seeing Aafia Siddiqui in Bagram. Omar said, “They told me how she cried and sobbed, how she screamed and cried and banged her head, in despair and sorrow.”

Please read the rest of the article here.

Please write to Aafia at Carswell, not only to let her know that she has not been forgotten, but also because the most effective way to ensure that abusers think twice about their abuse is when they know that the outside world is watching — and is watching in large numbers. The address for the prison is here, and if you’re interested, I urge you to take advantage of the Justice for Aafia Coalition’s pre-printed cards, available here, which can easily be distributed to friends and family.

From Andy Worthington´s website Published exclusively on the Aafya Siddiqui website

Andy Worthington Explores what New Habeas Corpus Decision Means for US Prison at Bragram Airbase in Afghanistan

WarIsACrime.org 

From Andy Worthington

On Friday, the Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. delivered a genuinely disturbing ruling regarding prisoners in the US prison at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan.
This ruling has turned the clock back to the darkest days of the Bush administration, before prisoners seized in the “War on Terror” had any recourse to justice if they claimed they had been seized by mistake.
Ruling in the case of three foreign prisoners — Redha al-Najar, a Tunisian seized in Karachi, Pakistan in 2002, Amin al-Bakri, a Yemeni gemstone dealer seized in Bangkok, Thailand in 2003, and Fadi al-Maqaleh, a Yemeni seized in 2004 — who were seized outside Afghanistan and transferred to Bagram via a number of secret CIA prisons, the Court of Appeals reversed a ruling last March by District Judge John D. Bates, granting the men the right to ask a US court why they were being held.
In January 2009, during a hearing before he delivered his final ruling, Judge Bates had recognized that Bagram was “a ‘black hole’ for detainees in a ‘law-free zone,’” and in his ruling he concluded — correctly — that the habeas rights granted by the Supreme Court to the Guantánamo prisoners in June 2008, in Boumediene v. Bush, also extended to foreign prisoners seized in other countries and rendered to Bagram, because, as he explained succinctly, “the detainees themselves as well as the rationale for detention are essentially the same.”
My own understanding was that it was only an administrative accident — or some as yet unknown decision that involved keeping a handful of foreign prisoners in Bagram, instead of sending them all to Guantánamo — that prevented these three men (and several dozen other foreign prisoners) from joining the 779 men in the offshore prison in Cuba.
This should have been the end of the story, especially as Judge Bates made no suggestion that similar rights should extend to foreign prisoners captured in Afghanistan, and also because, in June 2009, he accepted that a fourth man who had submitted a habeas petition — Haji Wazir, an Afghan seized in the United Arab Emirates — had no right to access a US court.
Although there was undoubtedly a case to be made that an Afghan rendered to Afghanistan from another country was in same position as a foreigner when it came to asking why they were being held, Judge Bates accepted the government’s argument that granting habeas rights to any Afghan would cause “friction” with the Afghan government, because of ongoing negotiations regarding the transfer of Afghan prisoners to the custody of their own government, and refused to grant Haji Wazir’s habeas petition.
However, this was not the end of the story. As soon as Judge Bates delivered his ruling last March, the government announced that it would appeal, and, in September, submitted a 76-page argument (PDF), which, as a sweetener to the Court of Appeals, also addressed a problem that Judge Bates had highlighted, even though it was beyond his remit to suggest any remedy.


The problem highlighted by Judge Bates was the review process at Bagram, and in making his ruling about the foreign prisoners rendered to the prison, he had compared it unfavorably to the review process in operation at Guantánamo, noting that the Unlawful Enemy Combatant Review Board (UECRB) at Bagram was both “inadequate” and “more error-prone” than the Combatant Status Review Tribunals at Guantánamo (which were condemned as nothing more than a rubberstamp for executive detention by former officials who worked on them, including, in particular, Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham), and concluding that the US military’s control over Bagram “is not appreciably different than at Guantánamo.”
In an analysis of the UECRB process, Judge Bates noted that prisoners were not allowed to have a “personal representative” from the military in place of a lawyer (as at Guantánamo), and were obliged to represent themselves, and also explained, “In addition, Detainees cannot even speak for themselves; they are only permitted to submit a written statement. But in submitting that statement, detainees do not know what evidence the United States relies upon to justify an “enemy combatant” designation — so they lack a meaningful opportunity to rebut that evidence.” He also noted that, unlike at Guantánamo, where Administrative Review Boards were convened on an annual basis, “Bagram detainees receive no review beyond the UECRB itself.”
It was no wonder that Judge Bates concluded that this process “falls well short of what the Supreme Court found inadequate at Guantánamo,” but in highlighting the review process at Bagram, he also touched on the biggest problem of all — that everyone at Bagram was held with less rights than the largely powerless “enemy combatants” of Guantánamo, and that they were, in particular, not being held as prisoners of war according to the Geneva Conventions.
This would have involved them being screened on capture, to determine whether they were combatants or civilians seized by mistake, and would then have involved them being held unmolested until the end of hostilities. It certainly would not have involved them not receiving adequate screening on capture, and then being subjected — at some undetermined point after capture — to a review process conjured up out of thin air.
When the government appealed Judge Bates’ ruling, the Justice Department’s submission included an attachment from the Defense Department, announcing that the UECRB process at Bagram was being replaced with a system that closely matched the tribunal process at Guantánamo — the one that, as Judge Bates noted, was “found inadequate” by the Supreme Court.
Under this new system, prisoners are assigned personal representatives (as at Guantánamo), are allowed to call witnesses (as at Guantánamo, although not a single witness from outside the prison was ever located by the officials in charge), and have their cases reviewed every six months. This certainly addressed the main problems identified by Judge Bates, although, as I explained at the time, by importing the CSRT process to Bagram and refusing to reinstate the Geneva Conventions, Obama and his administration “have, essentially, accepted the Bush administration’s aberrant changes regarding the detention of prisoners in wartime as a permanent shift in policy, with profound implications for the Conventions in general.”

Read Full Article Here…