Pakistan expresses concern over sentencing of Siddiqui

Pak govt expressed "deep concern" over a US court sentencing a woman scientist to 86 years in jail.

Last Updated: Sep 25, 2010, 00:50 AM IST

Islamabad: The government on Friday
expressed "deep concern" over a US court sentencing a
Pakistani woman scientist to 86 years in jail, while violent
protesters in Karachi chanted "Death to America" and burned
the effigy of President Barack Obama.

Police fired tear gas shells and baton charged
hundreds of activists in Pakistan`s commercial capital.

"The prolonged detention of Dr Aafia Siddiqui and
her sentencing is a source of deep concern to the government
and people of Pakistan," said a statement issued by Foreign
Office spokesman Abdul Basit in Islamabad.

The top leadership and the government of Pakistan
have repeatedly requested the US administration to "release
and repatriate" Siddiqui as the "circumstances surrounding her
arrest and trial were never fully explained nor her indictment
on charges substantiated," Basit said.

Siddiqui and her family have suffered immensely and
she is a victim of circumstances, he claimed.

"It is imperative that Dr Aafia Siddiqui be released
and repatriated. The government of Pakistan will continue to
endeavour to seek justice for Aafia Siddiqui," he added.

A US district judge yesterday sentenced Siddiqui to
86 years in prison after she was convicted in May of shooting
at FBI agents and American soldiers after her arrest in
Afghanistan. However, many in Pakistan claim she is innocent.

The sentencing triggered protests in cities and towns
across Pakistan. The activists of religious and civil outfits
held protests and marched on the streets shouting slogans
against America and President, Barrack Obama.

Effigies of Obama and other western leaders were also
burnt by the angry activists, who chanted slogans like "Death
to America" in Karachi, the hometown of Aafia.

The Pakistan government has said it would petition
Washington to secure the repatriation of the mother of three
on humanitarian grounds.

Police had to fire tear gas shells and baton charge a
few to prevent activists from marching onto the US consulate
in a commercial area of Karachi which is the hometown of the
jailed scientist who was arrested by US forces from
Afghanistan.

Police official Javed Akbar Qazi said police arrested
at least 14 people for creating a disturbance. The jailed
scientist`s sister, Fauzia Siddiqui addressing a rally said
she would not rest until her sister was released and
repatriated to Pakistan. She said the sentence smacked of US bias against Muslims and blamed the Pakistan government for failing to
secure the release of Aafiaa.

In Lahore, former Pakistan cricket captain, Imran Khan
who heads Tehrik-e-Insaf led a big rally to condemn the
sentencing of Aafia Siddiqui and said it was inhuman and
unethical.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan called on
Islamabad and Washington to negotiate urgently for her
repatriation on humanitarian grounds.

Senior official, Iqbal Haider said that the US needed
to show compassion as the verdict would create more distrust
among Pakistanis for the US government.

PTI