ISLAMABAD: Pakistan said on Monday it would leave “no stone unturned” in trying to bring home a woman scientist sentenced to 86 years in jail by a US court.
A New York court on Thursday found Aafia Siddiqui, a once brilliant scientist dubbed “Lady Qaeda” by US tabloids, guilty of the attempted murder of US military officers in Afghanistan in 2008 — five years after she disappeared.
“We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to bring her back. We are following both legal and political approaches to get her back,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik told a news conference.
He added that the government was concerned about the 38-year old neuroscientist’s mental and physical condition and was considering appealing on behalf of Siddiqui’s mother and sister to President Barack Obama to pardon her.
“We are concerned about Dr Siddiqui’s living conditions and we would like her not to be transferred to the federal prison,” he said.
“We are writing a letter to the US authorities to know about her health and mental condition.”The case of Siddiqui, a mother of three who trained at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brandeis University, has been condemned across the nuclear-armed Muslim nation of 167 million.
Thousands of people staged protest rallies across the country on Friday demanding her release. The protesters chanted anti-US slogans and burned US flags and effigies of President Barack Obama.
Soon after the verdict the Pakistan government said it would petition Washington to secure her repatriation on humanitarian grounds.
“Our goal is to bring back Dr Siddiqui. They (her family) have asked us to take up the matter with the OIC (Organisation of the Islamic Conference) and the UN Secretary General,” Malik said.
“We agree with them that the right of self-defence has not been given to Dr Siddiqui. We would like that this should be reconsidered and the matter related to mistrial be examined,” he said.
Siddiqui, 38, was found guilty of grabbing a rifle at an Afghan police station where she was being interrogated in 2008 and of trying to shoot US servicemen.
Prosecutors said she picked up the weapon and opened fire on servicemen and FBI representatives trying to take her into detention. She missed and in a struggle was herself shot by one of the US soldiers.
Defence lawyers argued there was no physical evidence, such as fingerprints or gunpowder traces, to show Siddiqui even grabbed the rifle.
Siddiqui’s lawyers have said they will appeal her sentence and her family vowed to launch a “movement” to get her released from jail.