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Aafia Siddiqui: Us envoy's version

The following statement appeared as a letter to the editor in Dawn on August 16, 2008

Aafia Siddiqui: US envoy’s version

We at the US embassy, Islamabad, have read with increasing concern a number of erroneous and irresponsible media reports regarding the arrest of Aafia Siddiqui.

We commend the majority of Pakistani journalists for their accurate and balanced reporting and overall professionalism. Sadly, however, a few have allowed rumour, innuendo, and grossly unsubstantiated allegations to dominate their coverage.

Unfortunately, there are some who have an interest in simply distorting the facts in an effort to manipulate and inflame public opinion.

The truth is never served by sensationalism; we believe your readers, as fair-minded and critical thinkers, deserve better.

Therefore, it’s high time that we set the record straight.

  • Allegations that Ms Siddiqui has been in custody at the Bagram Theatre Internment Facility in Afghanistan are completely erroneous.
  • Ms Siddiqui was not in the custody of the United States — either at Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base or anywhere else — at any time prior to her detention by Afghan police on July 17, 2008.
  • The United States did not have knowledge of her whereabouts until she was detained by Afghan police on July 17, 2008.
  • Ms Siddiqui is accused of seizing a weapon and firing – unprovoked — on US personnel during questioning.
  • She sustained non-life threatening injuries, received prompt medical attention, and is expected to fully recover. At no time was Ms Siddiqui mistreated or abused in any manner whatsoever.
  • There was absolutely no reward or ‘bounty’ paid by the United States for the capture of Ms Siddiqui.
  • The United States has no definitive knowledge as to the whereabouts of Ms Siddiqui’s children.
  • While in the custody of the United States, consular authorities of the government of Pakistan have standard consular access to her under the terms of the Vienna Convention. Pakistani embassy officials visited Ms Siddiqui on Aug 9.
  • Upon her arrival in the United States, a criminal action was initiated against Ms Siddiqui. She is charged in a criminal complaint filed in the southern district of New York with one count of attempting to kill United States officers and employees and one count of assaulting United States officers and employees. If convicted, Ms Siddiqui faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each charge.
  • The US justice system is based on the abiding principle that defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
  • Ms Siddiqui will receive a fair and public trial and will be afforded every opportunity to present her defence.

We would encourage your readers to remain open-minded but sceptical of these current – and any future — sensational allegations that have no basis in fact.

US Ambassador to Pakistan

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