Belfast Telegraph

Home News World

Pakistan PM urges woman's release

Pakistan's prime minister has vowed to campaign for the release of a female scientist convicted of trying to kill US interrogators in Afghanistan.

Aafia Siddiqui was jailed in the US after being handed an 86-year sentence by a New York court on Thursday.

Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani called Siddiqui "the daughter of the nation" in comments which appeared to be an attempt to manage public anger over the case, which has struck a chord among Islamist groups and ordinary Pakistanis, many of whom are convinced of her innocence.

The sentencing of the American-trained Pakistani scientist and mother prompted demonstrations in at least four cities after communal prayers on Friday, and criticism in the media. Much of the anger was directed at the already unpopular Pakistani government for failing to intervene in her case.

In Karachi, where Siddiqui's family lives, police fired tear gas to disperse about 100 people who were hurling stones at officers, said police chief Javed Akbr. In Islamabad, protesters from an Islamist political party attempting to reach the US Embassy scuffled with police, witnesses said. "Down with America! Jihad, Jihad!" the protesters shouted.

Mr Gilani said he had lobbied US officials for Siddiqui's release to "improve the US image in Pakistan".

"We all are united, and we want the daughter of the nation to come back to Pakistan," he told parliament, which unanimously adopted a resolution demanding Siddiqui's repatriation.

"I fought for her, my lawyer fought for her and now I will take up this matter on a political level," he said.

Siddiqui, 38, was detained in Afghanistan in 2008. She was found guilty of seizing a weapon from one of her captors and trying to shoot US officials who were interrogating her there.

Many Pakistanis believe claims by Siddiqui's supporters that the US abducted her long before that and kept her in a secret prison for years as it pursued its fight against global terrorism. US officials deny those claims, though they had listed Siddiqui as a suspect wanted for alleged links to al Qaida before her arrest.


From Belfast Telegraph