The lawyer for a Pakistani woman who was the first female terrorist suspect after the 9/11 attacks is demanding evidence that she is still alive at a federal prison in Texas, despite prison officials’ assertion that she is.
Aafia Siddiqui, a U.S.-trained scientist known as “Lady al Qaida,” is serving 86 years in a Fort Worth, Texas, federal prison for shooting at U.S. Army officers and FBI agents who were interrogating her in 2010 in Pakistan for her alleged involvement in terrorist efforts against the U.S. A New York jury in 2010 found her guilty of attempted murder and assault.
“We believe only by having an independent medical evaluation can the world be assured that she is alive and well,” Siddiqui lawyer Stephen Downs said this week at a news conference in Washington.
Downs, executive director of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, said Siddiqui has not been seen or heard from by her family or friends in more than a year. Pakistani consulate staff who tried to visit her at the Federal Medical Center Carswell were only shown the back of a woman, which made it impossible to identify whether it was Siddiqui, the lawyer said.
The organization demanded that Siddiqui be examined by a medical team that would include her sister, a Harvard-trained neurologist living in Pakistan.
Federal Medical Center Carswell spokeswoman Patricia Comstock said Wednesday that Siddiqui is alive, and she has seen her recently. However, Comstock declined to reveal Siddiqui’s medical condition.
The FBI in 2003 declared Siddiqui the world’s most wanted woman until she was captured five years later in Ghazni, Afghanistan. Upon her arrest, she was found to be in possession of numerous documents describing the making of chemical weapons, dirty bombs and instructions to attack landmarks in the U.S.
During her American interrogation in Pakistan, Siddiqui allegedly picked up an unsecured M-4 rifle and fired twice, missing both. She was subdued after the officers returned fire with a pistol and hit her in the torso.
The U.S. government said Siddiqui was a jihadist who married a nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged 9/11 mastermind, even though Siddiqui’s family denied the marriage. Both the Islamic State, known by various acronyms – including ISIS – and the Taliban had reportedly tried to swap American captives for her.
“ISIS is trying to get in on the popularity of Aafia,” Downs said. “She has nothing to do with ISIS. She was locked up before ISIS even got going.”
A petition was filed in July on whitehouse.gov with more than 100,000 signatures demanding Siddiqui’s repatriation to Pakistan. Supporters held a protest three weeks ago in front of the Federal Bureau of Prisons calling for her release.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled the byline of the reporter.