The mosque in question was the East London Mosque, in Whitechapel, and the alleged investigation was by the Charity Commission. The Star reported that the Charity Commission “said it had started a probe into the mosque,” and had “not yet launched a full investigation,” but was “looking into the issue.” That sounds very vague, but it was enough to get the mosque jumpy, and the event has, as a result, been moved to another venue in Whitechapel.
As for the “fundraising event for a convicted would-be killer,” another way of putting it would be that the Justice for Aafia Coalition (also see here) is putting on a fundraising event for a US-educated Pakistani neuroscientist who disappeared for nearly five and a half years, from March 2003 to July 2008, when, they contend, she was kidnapped and she and two of her three children were held in secret prisons run by or for the CIA and the US government. The third child, a baby at the time of her disappearance, may, it appears, have been shot and killed at the time of Dr. Siddiqui’s kidnapping.
The “conviction” trumpeted by the Star is another claim that needs qualifying. Dr. Siddiqui was indeed given an 86-year sentence in a New York courtroom in September 2010, for allegedly trying to shoot some US soldiers in Afghanistan, but as Yvonne Ridley explained in a recent article for Ceasefire magazine, “The fact they shot her at close range and nearly killed her is often overlooked. To their eternal shame, the US soldiers serving in Afghanistan claimed in court under oath that the diminutive, fragile academic leapt at them from behind a prison cell curtain, snatching one of their guns to shoot and kill them. It was a fabricated story that any defence lawyer worth his or her salt would have ripped apart at the seams.”
Ridley also stated, “The scenario painted in court was incredulous and more importantly, the evidence non existent — no gunshot residue on her hands or clothes, no bullets from the discharged gun, no fingerprints belonging to Dr. Aafia on the gun. Other vital evidence removed by US military from the scene went missing before the trial … After being patched up in a medical wing in Bagram, she was then ‘renditioned’ to America to stand trial for an alleged crime committed in Afghanistan. Flouting the Vienna and Geneva Conventions, she wasn’t given consular access until the day she made her first court appearance.”
When the sentence was first delivered, I wrote an article entitled, “Barbaric: 86-Year Sentence for Aafia Siddiqui,” and I have made several appearances at events since (see here, here, here and here), as Aafia Siddiqui’s story has always struck me as one of the murkiest in the whole sordid, torture-soaked “war on terror” that the Bush administration embarked on with such sadistic relish in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. At Saturday’s event, I will be talking to my friend, the former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Deghayes, about being imprisoned without rights, in vile conditions, separated from family, and we will reflect, as wlll the audience, on those lost years, when, it seems, Aafia Siddiqui and two of her children — who were just infants at the time — were subjected to the extra-legal horrors of America’s “war on terror.”
I’m looking forward to the event — and to seeing Omar and taking part in a discussion with him — and I don’t feel the need to apologise to the Daily Star for taking part in it.
The details are below:
Saturday 23rd February, 1.15pm-4.15pm: Her Pain, Our Shame: Have We Abandoned Aafia Siddiqui?
A Fundraising Conference at the Water Lily, 69-89 Mile End Road, London E1 4TT, featuring Ilyas Townsend, Imam Shakeel Begg, Adnan Rashid, and, at 3.25, Omar Deghayes in conversation with Andy Worthington.
For further information, please email the Justice for Aafia Coalition.
Source: Andy Worthington