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Senators allowed to meet Aafia

WASHINGTON, Sept 16: The US State Department informed the Pakistan Embassy on Tuesday that a six-member delegation of Pakistani senators could meet Aafia Siddiqui at her prison in New York.

“They have accepted our request and now we are arranging the meeting,” said the embassy’s spokesman Nadeem Kiani.

Mr Kiani, however, said that the US administration had rejected another request to allow the senators to meet Pakistani prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba.

Ms Siddiqui, who was brought from Afghanistan last month and was charged with attacking US officials during an interrogation, is lodged in a maximum-security prison in Brooklyn, New York.

The Senate delegation, led by Senator Mushahid Hussain, will now be able to meet Dr Siddiqui if they agree to follow prison rules and procedures and if she also agrees to meet them.

The six senators, however, will have to seek advance security clearance for the meeting.

The embassy said it had already started the process for security clearance and did not foresee any hindrance.

Asked if Dr Siddiqui would also agree to meet the delegation, Mr Kiani said: “I don’t see why not.”According to court documents released this week, Dr Siddiqui has been diagnosed with chronic depression. Federal Judge Richard Berman had ordered Ms Siddiqui’s psychiatric examination after she refused to appear in court to protest the humiliating strip searches she is subjected to even before a meeting with her lawyer.

The US media recently quoted a New York Bureau of Prisons psychologist, Dr Diane McLean, as saying that Ms Siddiqui suffered from “depressed mood, anxiety, ruminative thoughts concerning her son’s welfare, poor sleep, and moderate appetite”. She is also suffering from hallucinations.

The psychiatrist wrote: “She also reported seeing her daughter in her cell, and was unable to apply appropriate reality testing to this phenomenon.”

The Pakistani delegation was actually coming to visit the Guantanamo prison camp but it is not clear if it would still want to do so.

The State Department has told the embassy that the delegation can still visit the camp to see prison facilities but cannot meet prisoners.
Source: Dawn
Date:9/17/2008

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