by Yvonne Ridley
When Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was sentenced to 86 years by New York judge Richard Berman it sent shock waves around the world. Many of her supporters felt that it was just one step down from the death penalty… sadly, this could be closer to the truth than they imagine.
For not only did the New York judge expose his vindictive pursuit of the defendant by imposing the unprecedented sentence he also personally intervened to make sure she would serve it in one of America’s most brutal institutions.
In short he probably HAS sentenced Dr. Aafia Siddiqui to death because if she remains in the innocuous sounding Federal Medical Facility in Carswell, Texas, like many others who have gone before her, she may not survive the experience.
Carswell is the only mental institution of its kind in the USA, and despite the fact that Judge Berman refused to accept Dr. Siddiqui was not mentally fit to stand trial he subjected her to a judicial farce in which she was found guilty of attempted murder of U.S. soldiers.
So if he refused to accept Dr. Siddiqui was unstable why would he then insist on sending her to Carswell which is known across the USA as the Hospital of Horrors?
Let me tell you how Carswell -- or CarsHELL which houses 1500 female prisoners, earned its reputation.
In the last 10 years…
· COUNTLESS young women -- more than 100 -- have died under “questionable circumstances” with families unable to obtain autopsy reports
· NUMEROUS cases of sex abuse, including sodomy and rape, were carried out by prison chaplain Vincent Bassie Inametti whose reign of terror lasted eight years until he was finally convicted in 2008
· RAMPANT sex abuse of prisoners was reported by prison doctor Roger Guthrie who was fired for whistle-blowing
· PRISON doctor was convicted of sexually abusing inmates while another doctor was allowed to leave without charge after being caught sexually abusing a woman patient
· GROSS medical negligence has been reported including lack of care for several cancer patients -- one went untreated for a year and died
· SERIAL sexual predator and prison guard Michael Miller was convicted of raping a detainee
· FORCED psychotropic medication on reluctant detainees
· INFESTATION of ants went unchecked even when one patient in a coma was covered by the biting creatures as was the corpse of another.
To quote one local newspaper, The Fort Worth Weekly, time served in Carswell “can be a death sentence for women prisoners”.
In a different report about Carswell earlier this year the same newspaper said: “It has a troubling history of medical misconduct and sexual abuse of prisoners. Inametti is the eighth man to be convicted of or fired for sexual abuse, including rape, of female prisoners at the facility since 1997. But women there say that sexual abuse is much more rampant than that; the eight cases only became known when women overcame their fears of retribution and reported their attackers.”
And renowned lawyer Elizabeth Fink said in a statement: “One of my clients was transferred to Carswell to receive chemotherapy. She did not receive it for one full year after the therapy was prescribed. She died of classic Kaposi’s Sarcoma, a cancer with a low mortality rate -- when treated.”
There are a string of court cases outstanding against the institution from those who have survived the Carswell experience and there are families of those who died in custody who are still fighting for justice, demanding to know the truth.
The catalogue of crimes against the female detainees reads like something from a third world country and such an institution would have certainly been closed down by now or overhauled if it existed in Europe.
In fact Dr. Siddiqui should be removed from the U.S. prison system altogether pending her repatriation.
All of this will, of course, make uncomfortable reading for Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi who promised Dr. Siddiqui’s family that wherever she was sent she would be treated with respect.
“I will make sure Aafia’s living conditions are humane and respecting Islamic ideology and she be provided full access to family and lawyers without strip searches,” he assured Dr. Siddiqui’s sister Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui recently.
Well if he really wants to make good his promise he should now move heaven and earth to get the Daughter of the Nation out of this vile hell-hole before she becomes another of Carswell’s grim statistics.
Once again the U.S. has shown its contempt towards the wishes of the Pakistan Government and its vindictive persecution of a woman who has been renditioned, raped, tortured and abused since March 2003 when she and her family were kidnapped in Karachi during a joint U.S.-Pakistani-led operation.
The move to repatriate Dr. Siddiqui must now take on a new sense of urgency… before it is too late.
Journalist Yvonne Ridley is also a patron of Cageprisoners, a London-based NGO concerned with human rights of those caught up in the War on Terror. Photo: Federal Medical Facility in Carswell, Texas,USA