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US judge closes Aafia’s appeal

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The shocking case of Pakistani Neuroscientist Dr Aafia Siddiqui has taken another bizarre twist, after the judge overseeing her final appeal for the attempted murder of FBI agents in Afghanistan, ordered a closure to the case. District Judge Richard Berman, alleged that Siddiqui had requested an immediate end to her appeals process, further stating that it was unlikely he would have ruled in her favour anyway.

Dr Aafia Siddiqui is currently serving an 86 year prison term in a US medical prison, for an incident that occurred during her detention and interrogation by US personnel whilst in Afghanistan. Despite not being in possession of any firearm, she allegedly shot at FBI agents and soldiers who were attempting to interrogate her.

According to Salman Khan of the Free Aafia Movement, the ruling came as a shock as they had hoped that the application for a retrial would receive a fair judgment. Unfortunately, the ruling judge was the very same person who had issued her initial sentencing in early 2010. Despite vehement attempts to protest his inclusion, he said they were unable to have him removed from proceedings.

“Just to reopen the trial costs $150 000, and then to remove him it would have cost us a further $100 000,” he said.

The ruling has provoked suspicion as to why Siddiqui would agree to the case being dropped, particularly since it would likely be her last chance at appeal before a US District Court, barring extraordinary circumstances. Furthermore, the judge’s choice to personally close the case has also raised much suspicion.

“I must emphasize that a press release has been issued by Dr Fowzia Siddiqui, saying that this is a blatant lie and she wants direct access (to speak to Aafia Siddiqui),” said Khan.

The only remaining options would be to challenge the ruling with either the Constitutional Court, or US Supreme Court of Appeal.

Due to the length of her detention, and the reported torture she has experienced whilst in prison, Dr Siddiqui’s mental and physical health is believed to have significantly deteriorated. As a result, Khan said they were appealing to US authorities to let her spend her remaining days with her family.

“We want to know what state she is in. If she has agreed or signed on a document (to give approval for the withdrawal), she must have gone through a lot of questioning, and I hope not but, a lot of torture as well,” he said.

Despite the grim situation, Khan expressed hope that a positive end would be brought to the saga around her unlawful detention.

“If you would have asked somebody 30 years ago whether the Apartheid regime would have released Nelson Mandela, people would have said not a chance. If you would have asked 30 years ago whether the Soviet Union would ever fall, people would have said no. Anything and everything has its end,” he said. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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