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Central & South Asia
Pakistanis seek scientist's release
US decision to jail Aafia Siddiqui for 86 years sparks angry protests as PM Gilani vows to campaign for her release.
Last Modified: 24 Sep 2010 19:18 GMT
Several cities across Pakistan witnessed angry demonstrations over Siddiqui's sentencing in the US [AFP]

Pakistan's prime minister has vowed to press for the repatriation of a scientist sentenced to 86 years in jail in the US even as thousands of his countrymen demonstrated against the sentencing across several cities.

Yousuf Raza Gilani told the upper house of parliament on Friday that every effort would be made to seek the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a native Pakistani and an American-trained scientist, whom the New York court found guilty of the attempted murder of US military officers in Afghanistan in 2008.

"We will use every means to bring her back. Doctor Aafia is the daughter of the nation. We fought for her and we will fight politically to bring her back," Gilani said.

Gilani's comments appeared to be an attempt to manage public anger in Pakistan over the case of Siddiqui.

Angry demonstrations

In one of several demonstrations in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, police fired tear gas to disburse rock-throwing protesters trying to march to the US Consulate.

The protesters shouted "Death to America," "Allahu akbar" [God is greater], "Free Aafia Siddiqui" and "Down with the US system of justice".

Javed Akbar Qazi, a local police official, said that the police have arrested at least 14  people for creating disturbance. The protesters later dispersed peacefully.

In Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city, hundreds took to the street led by Imran Khan, a cricket hero-turned-politician, to condemn Thursday's sentencing as "unethical and inhuman", according to AFP news agency.

Hundreds more rallied under the auspices of Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamist party, shouting "Go America Go, Free Aafia Siddiqui".

Liaqat Baluch, the senior Jamaat-e-Islami leader who led the rally, said "the judgment against Siddiqui is based on anti-Muslim policy of the US".

In Islamabad, police stopped dozens of students from marching on the US embassy to hand over a protest note. The crowd shouted "Crush America," "Siddiqui is our sister" and "We will bring her back."

Dozens of lawyers and activists blocked traffic in the central city of Multan, shouting "Down with America.

The Pakistani Taliban also threatened "retaliatory strikes" to secure Siddiqui's release.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan called on Islamabad and Washington to negotiate urgently for her repatriation on humanitarian grounds.

"We fear that the verdict will be misunderstood in Pakistan and bring relations between the two allies in the war on terror under increased strain," Mehdi Hasan, the chairman of the commission said. 

Source:
Agencies
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