Pakistan lodges complaint against U.S. over inmate's reported attack at Texas prison

A member of the Pakistani government called for her to be released from U.S. custody and returned to Pakistan


By Kaley Johnson
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
        
FORT WORTH, Texas — The Pakistani government lodged a complaint against U.S. authorities after a Pakistani woman incarcerated at Federal Medical Center Carswell prison in Fort Worth reported she was assaulted by another inmate.

Aafia Siddiqui told her attorney she was attacked in her cell on July 30, according to the Dallas-Fort Worth sector of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Another woman reportedly smashed a coffee mug with scalding hot liquid into Siddiqui's face. After the attack, Siddiqui was taken out of her cell in a wheelchair and then forced into solitary confinement, said CAIR Executive Director Faizan Syed.

Siddiqui's attorney only found out about the attack when she visited Siddiqui in early August, Syed said. The 49-year-old had cuts and bruises on her face. Siddiqui reported to prison officers the woman was harassing her but the prison did nothing to prevent the attack, Syed said.

Aafia Siddiqui is in prison at FMC Carswell on charges related to the attempted murder and assault of United States officers and employees in Afghanistan in 2008.
Aafia Siddiqui is in prison at FMC Carswell on charges related to the attempted murder and assault of United States officers and employees in Afghanistan in 2008. (BOP)

In response to questions about Siddiqui's allegations, the Bureau of Prisons said, "For privacy, safety, and security reasons, we do not comment on anecdotal allegations or discuss the conditions of confinement, or health status, for any inmate."

Siddiqui's attorney was not allowed to visit her for the weeks since she was in solitary, Syed said. After CAIR worked with the prison, Siddiqui was removed from solitary. Her attorney will visit her for the first time since the attack on Friday, Syed said.

The Consulate General in Houston visited Siddiqui in prison to check on her, according to Syed. The Foreign Office of Pakistan then lodged a formal complaint with the U.S. authorities to investigate the attack.

A member of the Pakistani government called for Siddiqui to be released from U.S. custody and returned to Pakistan, according to the Express Tribune, a daily English-language newspaper based in Pakistan.

Siddiqui is in prison at Carswell on charges related to the attempted murder and assault of United States officers and employees in Afghanistan in 2008.

Siddiqui was transferred to FMC Carswell for medical reasons in 2008. Carswell is the only federal medical facility for women in the U.S. and incarcerated women across the country who have medical needs are often transferred to the prison.

Who is Aafia Siddiqui?

U.S. officials once described Aafia Siddiqui as "the most wanted woman in the world."
U.S. officials once described Aafia Siddiqui as "the most wanted woman in the world." (FBI)

Information on Siddiqui's case is often convoluted and filled with contradictions. In Pakistan, she is widely portrayed as a heroine and martyr. Her family and supporters say the mother of three was falsely accused and used as a scapegoat in the "war on terror" after 9/11, according to a profile in the Guardian. In 2018, the Senate of Pakistan unanimously passed a resolution to take up the matter of Siddiqui's freedom with the U.S., referring to her as "the Daughter of the Nation."

U.S. authorities say she is a dangerous terrorist with ties to the ringleader of 9/11. Counter-terrorism groups have dubbed her "Lady al-Qaeda," and U.S. officials once described her as "the most wanted woman in the world." The U.S. government has refused to trade her for American hostages multiple times, including for journalist James Foley prior to his execution by ISIS.

Syed said based on CAIR's work on Siddiqui's case, he believes she is innocent. He hopes more officials demand Siddiqui's release.

"She is serving an 86-year prison sentence for a crime that she did not commit," he said. "She is not even a U.S. citizen — she is a foreign national. It makes no sense to detain a foreign national on our tax-paying dollar for decades on end. I hope more officials will call on her release and allow her to return to her country of origin."

Siddiqui is a neuroscientist who graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the '90s, she lived in the Boston area, and she moved back to Pakistan in 2002.

According to an appeal filed by Siddiqui's lawyer in 2014, Siddiqui was kidnapped by Pakistani police in 2003. She was held in the custody of Pakistani and/or American security forces for five years and subjected to physical and psychological torture at the Bagram Detention Center north of Kabul, the attorney said.

According to the Department of Justice, Siddiqui was on the run for those five years, and was detained in Afghanistan in 2008. Officers who searched her found documents about the creation of explosives, descriptions of American landmarks and sealed bottles of chemicals, according to a press release about her arrest. While in the Afghan facility, U.S. Army officers said Sidiqqui grabbed a rifle from an officer, pointed it at a captain and yelled, "May the blood of [unintelligible] be directly on your [unintelligible, possibly head or hands]."

An interpreter lunged at her and pushed the rifle away as Siddiqui pulled the trigger, according to the DOJ. Siddiqui fired at least two shots but did not hit anyone. An Army officer shot Siddqui in the torso.

Syed said the evidence in Siddiqui's case contradicts this claim. The intense Islamaphobia in the decade after 9/11 tainted the jury and the judge against Siddiqui, he said. Siddiqui was declared mentally impaired by a psychologist at Carswell, but the diagnosis was later thrown out after further evaluation.

"The whole example of Dr. Aafia is one of the biggest cases of injustice that is blatant and obvious," Syed said. "The sin of that is still going on with her being incarcerated and the (prison) cannot even keep her safe. Why she is still being held is beyond me, and it is a stain on the United States and its reputation."
     
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