US trial judge denies Aafia’s plea Aafia had requested that judge recuses himself from trial and her conviction be overturn

Sameer Nazir
KARACHI:
Aafia Movement Pakistan here Tuesday regretted that the U.S. judge who presided over Dr. Aafia Siddiqui’s criminal trial has denied Dr. Siddiqui’s request that he recuse himself from presiding over her newly filed legal case that seeks to overturn her conviction and sentence.
In a release issue here, they said that Law Office of Tina Foster has announced that Dr. Siddiqui’s attorney in the case, Mr. Robert Boyle, appeared in court today and argued that having the case reassigned to a different judge would help ensure that she receives a fair and just evaluation of her legal arguments.
Dr. Siddiqui’s new legal challenge to her conviction (a motion to vacate pursuant to section 2255) argues that she was denied her constitutional right to counsel when the trial judge, Judge Richard Berman, forced her to be represented by attorneys that were not acting in her interest. Dr. Siddiqui’s trial attorneys were hired by the government of Pakistan, which, evidence shows, was responsible for her 2003 unlawful abduction and subsequent five-year-long secret detention. Dr. Siddiqui’s case requires Judge Berman to determine whether it was proper for him to permit the attorneys hired by the Government of Pakistan to represent Dr. Siddiqui over her repeated objections. It also requires Judge Berman to determine whether those attorneys had an actual conflict of interest, notwithstanding their assurances to represent only Dr. Siddiqui’s interests.
In legal papers, Mr. Boyle argued that it would be especially improper for these determinations to be made by the same judge who, while the trial was ongoing, had a private meeting with Pakistani ambassador Husain Haqqani. Ambassador Haqqani was personally responsible for negotiating and executing the agreement between the trial attorneys and the government of Pakistan.
In denying the request, Judge Berman described his meeting with Ambassador Haqqani as nothing more than a brief exchange of pleasantries. He ruled that the meeting was not improper and will not hinder the appearance of fairness as he continues to preside over Dr. Siddiqui’s case.
Judge Berman has set a deadline of August 18, 2014, for the government to respond to Dr. Siddiqui’s motion to vacate her conviction.