Thousands protest as Pakistani mother jailed in US for 86 years


PAKISTAN’S PRIME minister yesterday hailed a scientist convicted of attempting to kill US soldiers as the “daughter of the nation” and promised intense efforts to secure her return to Pakistan.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets after a New York court sentenced Aafia Siddiqui, a US-educated neuroscientist and mother of three, to 86 years in jail.

Police fired tear gas and scuffled with protesters surging towards the heavily fortified US consulate in her hometown, Karachi. In Multan, Punjab Province, people burned posters of US president Barack Obama. At least 5,000 people attended the largest rally, in Peshawar.

The protests were led by activists from the religious party Jamaat e Islami and Imran Khan’s Justice party – minority groups that have seized on Siddiqui’s case as a means of attacking President Asif Ali Zardari’s government.

The case taps into deep anti-US hostility in a country where a recent survey found that just 17 per cent of Pakistanis view Washington favourably.

In an effort to quell criticism of the government’s failure to secure Siddiqui’s repatriation from the US, prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told parliament yesterday he had appealed to the US to release her in order to “improve its image” in Pakistan.

The government spent $2 million (€1.48 million) hiring defence lawyers for Siddiqui; yesterday, Mr Gilani said he would seek an extradition treaty with the US to facilitate her early return.

In the trial, Siddiqui (38) was accused of snatching a gun from a US soldier in an Afghan jail cell in 2008 and opening fire. She hit nobody, but was shot by a US officer. She weakened her defence with outbursts against the US and speeches against Jewish conspiracies.

Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud’s statement of support was also a negative. – ( Guardianservice)