Texas hostage case: Who is Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani convict at the center of the storm?

The man who authorities say was holding hostages in a Texas synagogue on Saturday demanded the release of a Pakistani woman imprisoned nearby for attempting to kill US servicemen in Afghanistan.

The woman, Aafia Siddiqui, is serving an 86-year prison sentence after being convicted in Manhattan in 2010 of seeking to shoot US military officers while detained in Afghanistan two years earlier.

For the Ministry of Justice, which had accused Siddiqui of being an agent of Al-Qaeda, it was a significant belief in the fight against international extremism. But to his supporters, many of whom believed in his innocence, the case embodied what they saw as an overzealous post-9/11 US justice system.

Here is an overview of the case:

Who is Aafia Siddiqui?

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

She came to the attention of US law enforcement in the years following the September 11 attacks. At a press conference in May 2004, the FBI and Justice Department described her as an “al-Qaeda agent and facilitator” during which they warned of intelligence showing that Al-Qaeda was planning an attack in the coming months.

In 2008, she was detained by authorities in Afghanistan. US officials said they found handwritten notes in his possession that spoke of the construction of so-called “dirty bombs” and listed various locations in the United States that could be targeted in a “mass-caused attack”.

In this July 17, 2008 file photo, Aafia Siddiqui is seen in the custody of the Ghazni Province Counter Terrorism Department in the city of Ghazni, Afghanistan. (AP)

In an interrogation room at an Afghan police compound, authorities said, she seized a US army officer’s M-4 rifle and opened fire on members of the US task force. to interrogate him.

She was convicted in 2010 of, among other things, attempting to kill American nationals outside the United States. During her sentencing hearing, she made 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 suffered from mental illness.

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

What was the reaction?

Pakistani officials immediately denounced the punishment, prompting protests in several cities and criticism in the media.

Then Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called her a “daughter of the nation” and vowed to campaign for her release from prison.

In the years that followed, Pakistani leaders openly floated the idea of ​​swaps or deals that could lead to his release.

Faizan Syed, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Dallas Fort-Worth, Texas, said the group considers Siddiqui to be “caught up in the war on terror” and as well a political prisoner who has been charged wrongly by erroneous evidence. . H nonetheless strongly condemned the hostage-taking, calling it wrong, heinous and “something that completely undermines our efforts to get Dr Aaifa released”.

She also won support from accused activists in the United States. An Ohio man who admitted to plotting to kill US service members after training in Syria was also planning to fly to Texas and attack the federal prison where Siddiqui is being held in an effort to free her. The man, Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, was sentenced in 2018 to 22 years in prison.

What’s up on Siddiqui’s imprisonment?

Siddiqui is being held in federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas. 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 attorneys said another inmate “smashed a coffee cup filled with hot flaky liquid” into her face. When Siddiqui curled up in a fetal position, the other woman began punching and kicking her, leaving her with injuries so severe she had to be wheeled to the medical unit in prison, says the costume.

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

The attack sparked protests from human rights activists and religious groups, calling for improved prison conditions. Activists also called on the Pakistani government to fight for his release from US custody.

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