The family of the jailed Pakistani scientist Dr Aafia Siddiqui has pleaded with ISIS to spare the lives of two British hostages it has threatened to behead.
Dr Fowzia Siddiqui, whose sister was jailed for the attempted murder of an FBI official in disputed circumstances in 2008, last night called for British aid worker Alan Henning, journalist John Cantlie and others being held under threat of beheading to be shown mercy and released.
She said her sister, who has become a popular cause throughout the Islamic world, would be “distraught” if she knew a terrorist group like ISIS was using her case as an excuse for murdering innocent people.
“She would be distraught if she knew that there are people bragging about murder and mayhem and using her name to justify it. She would also be praying for the victims and their families. Aafia is one of too many people around the world who understands the toll that injustice demands from all of us”, Dr Fowzia Siddiqui said.
ISIS demanded Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s release last month as one of its conditions for sparing James Foley, an American journalist it had kidnapped and was threatening to kill if its conditions were not met. It later released a video of him being beheaded, apparently by a British fighter known as ‘Jihadi John’.
Dr Aafia Siddiqui, an MIT-trained neuroscientist, was jailed for 86 years for the attempted murder of an FBI agent in Afghanistan in 2008 after she allegedly grabbed a gun and shot at him while she was being questioned over claims that she was an al-Qaeda operative.
Her family maintain she is innocent and she was wrongfully arrested in 2003, separated from her three children, and moved between various jails in Afghanistan until she was finally charged in 2008. There are reports that Dr Aafia was suffering from mental illness when she was charged.
According to her sister she is now preparing an appeal against her conviction, but her family voiced its dismay that her treatment was being used to justify acts of terror and murder.
Dr Fowzia Siddiqui, a neurologist at Karachi’s Agha Khan University Hospital, said she was appealing to the “kidnappers who are using my sister’s name” and that her sister would be praying for those they had threatened if she knew of their plight.
While the family appreciated the feelings of those who wanted to see her sister released it could not condone a “by any means necessary” approach to Aafia’s freedom.
She urged the ISIS kidnappers holding Mr Henning, Mr Cantlie, and an American female hostage among others, to follow the example of the Prophet Muhammad – that mercy is an act of courage and that “blessed are those who avoid the greater crimes and shameful deeds, and when they are angry even then forgive,” she said, quoting the Koran.