Pak working on legal, diplomatic fronts for Aafias release: Haqqani
The Pakistan government is doing all it can at the diplomatic and legal fronts to win freedom for Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, the neuroscientist whose trial on murder charges takes place next week, Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Hussain Haqqani said Friday. Introducing to the U.S.-based Pakistani correspondents the three-member A-class legal defence team, retained by the Pakistan government, he said that the lawyers would put up a strong defence in a bid to bring to an end Ms. Siddiquis difficulties. The legal team comprises Charles Swift, Ms. Linda Moreno and Ms. Elaine Sharp.
These eminent lawyers were cleared by the Manhattan Federal Court on September 2. Ms. Siddiqui, who is charged with shooting at her U.S. interrogators in Afghanistan last July, has vehemently denied attacking any one. Shes not facing terrorism charges.
Following the selection of a jury on Thursday, her trial is set to begin January 19, when opening statements will be made by the prosecution and defence lawyers following which the government will produce its first witnesses.
The whole process is expected to be completed in a couple of weeks.
Haqqani said that the people of Pakistan believe that the charges against Ms. Siddiqui were not true and that she was being victimized. They want her released immediately. The top Pakistani diplomat here said that President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza
Gilani and the Pakistan Embassy in Washington had all made efforts for her release and were continuing to do so.
Speaking to correspondents, Swift, the lawyer, said that the charge against Ms. Siddiqui was baseless. Over the last four months, the team had worked hard and gathered as much information as possible to build a strong defence.
He had also visited Ghazni in Afghanistan where the alleged shooting incident had taken place and interviewed witnesses and officials in that city. In fact, he added, judicial hearings should have taken place there.
Were now ready, Swift told correspondents. He said he could not predict the outcome of the case, which depended on several factors, including the evidence produced in the court. But he said he believed in the American justice system.
As regards the jury, which comprises a cross-section of the people, Swift said he has faith in the basic goodness of U.S. citizens and the way they take their responsibility in courts. The lawyer said they would fight for Ms. Siddiqui as great injustice had been done to her. If she is convicted, she will get life sentence; if she is acquitted, she will get her life back. Replying to a question, Swift said although they have been paid by the Pakistan government, their task was solely to defend Ms. Siddiqui.
When a correspondent pointed out that Ms. Siddiqui has disowned the defence team, Swift said that she had suffered a lot and he understood her state of mind. But the defence teams efforts would be to ensure that she gets a fair trial.
About the campaign being conducted by a section of the American press against Ms. Siddiqui linking her to al-Qaeda, Ms. Moreno, a prominent lawyer, said it was unlikely to take any significant effect on jury members.
There are always such elements trying to vitiate the atmosphere but it wont work. As regards the concerns being voiced by Ms. Siddiquis family, Moreno said she feels their pain and fully sympathized with them.
All she could say that they will do their best in the court. Asked about the impact of Ms. Sidduqis demand for the exclusion of Jews from the jury panel and her anti-Israel statements, Swift said, I dont know. But Moreno said that Ms. Siddiquis incarceration had damaged her mind.