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US ‘dark side’ raised in Aafia Siddiqui case

NEW YORK: The ‘dark side’ of United States counterterrorism took center stage on Wednesday in the court case of Dr Aafia Siddiqui who is accused of attacking US officers in Afghanistan.

The New York federal judge in the case highlighted defence allegations that Siddiqui was abducted and tortured by US or allied forces prior to extradition from Afghanistan on attempted-murder charges in August. Siddiqui, 36, is undergoing psychiatric treatment at a government centre in Texas and, according to her lawyer, suffers hallucinations featuring her dead or missing children.

Judge Richard Berman on Monday said the preliminary evaluation showed Siddiqui unfit to stand trial.

On Wednesday, he called for more information regarding allegations that the accused, once a high-flying, US-trained neuroscientist, vanished in 2003 and was held in secret captivity for five years.

The allegations, which the US government rejects, are not part of the court case, but still need to be addressed, Berman told prosecution and defence teams.

“Certainly it has a bearing on the clinical treatment … and the issue of competence,” he said.

Custody: Defence lawyer Elizabeth Fink says that Siddiqui is not only innocent but the victim of five horrific years in custody — an experience responsible for her current mental illness.

Fink quoted a 2001 statement by Vice President Dick Cheney in which he acknowledged that US anti-terrorism bodies use ‘the dark side’, working ‘quietly, without any discussion’.

Obtaining the truth is almost impossible, Fink told the court, although with Barack Obama’s election as president, “God knows what’s going to happen to this ‘dark side’ stuff.”

Evidence: Prosecutor David Raskin said there was ‘not a shred of evidence’ that Siddiqui had been in the hands of US or allied forces prior to her July arrest.

Siddiqui and her children were “certainly not in US custody, certainly not kidnapped by US forces, the ‘dark side’,” he told the court.

“A more plausible inference is that she went into hiding because people around her started to get arrested and at least two of those people ended up at Guantanamo Bay,” Raskin said.

However, both Raskin and Fink admitted they had little hard evidence to prove Siddiqui’s whereabouts in that mysterious period.

With Siddiqui apparently in mental distress, and not attending her court hearings, she is unlikely to shed much light in the near future.

According to the preliminary medical report, as quoted by Fink, Siddiqui suffers visual hallucinations of one child, who is believed to be dead, and another, who is missing. The next court session, in December, will merely provide an update on Siddiqui’s medical condition.

Siddiqui faces 20 years prison if convicted.
Source: Daily Times

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