A closer look at the case of Aafia Siddiqui, jailed in Texas

Jan 15, 2022, 4:57 AM | Updated: 8:58 pm
FILE - In this July 17, 2008, file photo, Aafia Siddiqui, possible al-Qaida associate, is seen in t...

FILE - In this July 17, 2008, file photo, Aafia Siddiqui, possible al-Qaida associate, is seen in the custody of Counter Terrorism Department of Ghazni province in Ghazni City, Afghanistan. The man who authorities say was holding hostages inside a Texas synagogue on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman who is imprisoned on charges of trying to kill American service members in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/ File)

(AP Photo/ File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The man who authorities say held hostages inside a Texas synagogue on Saturday demanded the release of a Pakistani woman who is imprisoned nearby on charges of trying to kill American service members in Afghanistan.

The hostage incident ended Saturday night with the hostages safe and the man holding them dead, authorities said.

The woman whose freedom was sought, Aafia Siddiqui, is serving an 86-year prison sentence after being convicted in Manhattan in 2010 on charges that she sought to shoot U.S. military officers while being detained in Afghanistan two years earlier.

For the Justice Department, which had accused Siddiqui of being an al-Qaida operative, it was a significant conviction in the fight against international extremism. But to her supporters, many of whom believed in her innocence, the case embodied what they saw as an overzealous post Sept. 11-American judicial system.

A closer look at the case:

WHO IS AAFIA SIDDIQUI?

She’s a Pakistani neuroscientist who studied in the United States at prestigious institutions — Brandeis University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

She attracted the attention of American law enforcement in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks. Top FBI and Justice Department described her as an “al-Qaida operative and facilitator” at a May 2004 news conference in which they warned of intelligence showing al-Qaida planned an attack in the coming months.

In 2008, she was detained by authorities in Afghanistan. American officials said they found in her possession handwritten notes that discussed the construction of so-called dirty bombs and that listed various locations in the U.S. that could be targeted in a “mass casualty attack.”

Inside an interview room at an Afghan police compound, authorities say, she grabbed the M-4 rifle of a U.S. Army officer and opened fire on members of the U.S. team assigned to interrogate her.

She was convicted in 2010 on charges including attempting to kill U.S. nationals outside the United States. At her sentencing hearing, she gave rambling statements in which she delivered a message of world peace — and also forgave the judge. She expressed frustration at arguments from her own lawyers who said she deserved leniency because she was mentally ill.

“I’m not paranoid,” she said at one point. “I don’t agree with that.”

WHAT WAS THE REACTION?

Pakistani officials immediately decried the punishment, which prompted protests in multiple cities and criticism in the media.

The prime minister at the time, Yousuf Raza Gilani, called her the “daughter of the nation” and vowed to campaign for her release from jail.

In the years since, Pakistani leaders have openly floated the idea of swaps or deals that could result in her release.

Faizan Syed, executive director of the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said the group considers Siddiqui to have been “caught in the war on terror” as well as a political prisoner who was wrongly accused through flawed evidence. He nonetheless strongly condemned the hostage-taking, calling it wrong, heinous and “something that is completely undermining our efforts to get Dr. Aaifa released.”

She has also garnered support from accused militants in the United States. An Ohio man who admitted he plotted to kill U.S. military members after receiving training in Syria also planned to fly to Texas and attack the federal prison where Siddiqui is being held in an attempt to free her. The man, Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, was sentenced in 2018 to 22 years in prison.

WHAT’S THE LATEST ON SIDDIQUI’S IMPRISONMENT?

Siddiqui is being held at a federal prison in Fort Worth. She was attacked in July by another inmate at the facility and suffered serious injuries, according to court documents.

In a lawsuit against the federal Bureau of Prisons, Siddiqui’s lawyers said another inmate “smashed a coffee mug filled with scaling hot liquid” into her face. When Siddiqui curled herself into a fetal position, the other woman began to punch and kick her, leaving her with injuries so severe that she needed to be taken by wheelchair to the prison’s medical unit, the suit says.

Siddiqui was left with burns around her eyes and a three-inch scar near her left eye, the lawsuit says. She also suffered bruises on her arms and legs and an injury to her cheek.

The attack prompted protests by human rights activists and religious groups and calls for improved prison conditions. The activists have also called on the Pakistani government to fight for her release from U.S. custody.

____

Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo in Washington and Acacia Coronado in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Pope urges Congo, South Sudan to work for peace, prosperity

ROME (AP) — Pope Francis urged the people and leaders of Congo and South Sudan on Saturday to “turn a page” and forge new paths of reconciliation, peace and development. Francis issued a video message on the day he had planned to begin a weeklong pilgrimage to the two African countries. He canceled the scheduled […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Ship sinks in storm off Hong Kong, dozens of crew in danger

HONG KONG (AP) — An industrial support ship operating in the South China Sea has sunk in a storm with the possible loss of more than two dozen crew members, rescue services in Hong Kong said Saturday. Authorities dispatched planes and helicopters to aid in the rescue, with at least three people from the crew […]
1 day ago
Cement trucks parked at a construction site of an apartment building under construction for residen...
Associated Press

Russians press assault on eastern Ukrainian city

KYIV, Ukarine (AP) — Russian forces are pounding the city of Lysychansk and its surroundings in an all-out attempt to seize the last stronghold of resistance in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk province, the governor said Saturday. Ukrainian fighters have spent weeks trying to defend the city and to keep it from falling to Russia, as neighboring […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Rescuers recover 26 dead from mudslide in India’s northeast

GAUHATI, India (AP) — Fresh rain and falling boulders on Saturday hampered rescuers who have so far pulled out 26 bodies from the debris of a mudslide that wiped out a railroad construction site in India’s northeast, officials said. Rescue work is expected to continue for a couple of days in rugged hilly terrain with […]
1 day ago
FILE -  A coal-fired power station in Witbank, South Africa , Monday, Oct. 11, 2021. South Africans...
Associated Press

South Africans struggle in the dark to cope with power cuts

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africans are struggling in the dark to cope with increased power cuts that have hit households and businesses across the country. The rolling power cuts have been experienced for years but this week the country’s state-owned power utility Eskom extended them so that some residents and businesses have gone without power […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Virgin Orbit rocket launches 7 US defense satellites

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Virgin Orbit rocket carrying seven U.S. Defense Department satellites was launched from a special Boeing 747 flying off the Southern California coast and streaked toward space Friday night. The modified jumbo jet took off from Mojave Air and Space Port in the Mojave Desert and released the rocket over the […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
A closer look at the case of Aafia Siddiqui, jailed in Texas