Dr Aafia Should Have Lawyers Of Her Choice, Says Mother

4 January 2010

By Shahid Husain

Dr Aafia Siddiqui's mother, Ismat Siddiqui, has said that her daughter will not get a fair trial under the current setting because she has been denied lawyers of her choice.

In a letter addressed to Judge Richard Berman, which was released to the media on Wednesday, she said: "I do not believe that Aafia will get a fair trial under the current setting. In your system of justice she has to have lawyers who she trusts, but that very initial process has been tampered with or, should I say, sabotaged?"

The open letter to Justice Berman, who is holding the much-publicised trial of Pakistani scientist Dr Aafia Siddiqui in the US, was released at a crowded press conference the at Karachi Press Club (KPC). International Bar Association Member Qadir Khan Mandokel was also present.

"I am a mother, a widow, but most importantly a human being, which makes me your sister in humanity. I hope you will read this letter as a sister conveying her thoughts to a brother," she said. "I have wanted to write to you for about a year but was stopped by my children and countrypeople. Now I feel enough is enough. I have been told that you are presiding over my daughter's trial. I have been told that when my daughter openly, and in writing, requested to fire your imposed lawyers, you answered: `you are on the eve of the trial, I will not advise it' and ignoring her pleas and dissatisfaction, you intend to continue with the trial. You declare her competent to stand trial but do not respect her wishes in any way."

"I feel that you are treating her as a patient in need of life support without a living will. You have made her non-existent but what you seem to forget is that governments and courts only get that authority if the patient has no living surrogates," she said. "Honourable judge, I am very much alive as I write this. If anyone should have the right to decide which lawyer she gets it should be Aafia, but if she is incompetent, then it should be me. I am no lawyer, nor judge, nor jury but I am a mother with a living mother's intuition," she said.

She pointed out that Dr Aafia's defense team has been denied choice of jury selection through the legal questionnaire; they have been denied access to her medical records, access to all the witnesses.

"My innocent, delicate princess has been subjected to horrendous forms of abuse and coercions that have stabbed the hearts of mankind very deeply and the sad fact is that some of that has been done under your use of force order," she said.

"Your honour, forgive me if you feel I have said anything that you find undesirable; the truth can sometimes be very bitter," she said. "I just want to convey this message to you that if my daughter does not have faith in the current lawyers then I do not either and I believe that they are forced on to her to make sure that she gets convicted for a crime she never committed, and your honourable court will be setting the cornerstones of injustice and discrimination, a grievance without repair in the entire world!"

"My daughter has requested and desired several times in court and in writing that she does not have trust in the current legal team. If she is competent, her wishes should be respected and she should be provided the means and opportunity to be able to choose a defence counsel of her choice. If she is incompetent, then I declare as her mother that I do not want these lawyers either," she said.

The letter has been also sent to US President Barrack Obama; Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani; US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton; Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Choudhry; Chief Justice of USA John G. Roberts Jr; Ambassador of Pakistan to USA Hussain Haqqani; the US Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson; and Dr Aafia's defence team.




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