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February 25, 2008 - The government of Pakistan has illegally detained a U.S. citizen for over two years without trial, according to his attorneys, family members, and friends.

Dr. Safdar Sarki, a Pakistani-born citizen of the United States, disappeared two years ago this week, on February 24, 2006, while on a visit to Pakistan. Government personnel arrested him at his sister's home in Karachi just before he was set to return to his wife and two children in the United States.

Dr. Sarki, a medical doctor who was active in human rights and secular political groups, immigrated to the United States in the 1990s. He settled in Texas with his family and remained politically active in Pakistan - a possible reason for his later arrest.

For almost a year and a half after his disappearance, Dr. Sarki's whereabouts were unknown. On October 11, 2007, his detention was revealed when Pakistan's Supreme Court, under Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, ruled that Sarki's case was an "enforced disappearance," and ordered authorities to produce him before the court.

Pakistani authorities responded suspiciously: Within hours of the October 11 session, authorities inexplicably announced that Dr. Sarki had just been detained in Hub in southern Pakistan, on dubious charges of weapons possession.

"To detain a man secretly for 20 months and then pretend to have just arrested him - the deceit is childish," said John Sifton, Dr. Sarki's attorney in the United States. "The government of Pakistan isn't fooling anyone."

Dr. Sarki has indicated that he was severely mistreated while in custody in 2006 and 2007. In letters and communications to attorneys in Pakistan during court hearings in 2007, Dr. Sarki said that during his disappearance he was beaten, subjected to constant shackling and blindfolding, and deprived of food and water.

"It is well-known that Pakistan intelligence forces and police routinely torture detainees," said Sifton. "But it's especially egregious that Pakistan would torture even a citizen of the United States, a country that provides Pakistan's military with almost $100 million in assistance every month."

Dr. Sarki's detention is causing him serious health problems. Due to his continued confinement and mistreatment, he developed severe shoulder injuries and eye problems. During a hearing in late 2007, a Pakistani doctor in Zhob testified and provided a medical report indicating that Dr. Sarki had developed a serious eye condition due to constant blindfolding during his disappearance. If left untreated, the condition will result in permanent eye damage or possibly blindness. The doctor also noted that Dr. Sarki is suffering from two hernias.

During later court hearings in Zhob in December 2007 and January 2008, Dr. Sarki appeared to be in even worse health. Pakistani authorities have denied requests by Dr. Sarki's attorneys to have him released or transferred to a medical facility for treatment.

On three occasions, judges have ordered Dr. Sarki released, in each case the orders have been overturned in mysterious circumstances:

- On November 2, 2007, a local judge in Hub issued an order allowing Dr. Sarki to be released on bail, and issued release orders to be delivered by the court clerk to relevant police authorities. The release orders never reached police forces. Two hours after the order, local court staff in Hub informed Dr. Sarki's attorney via telephone that the orders were "canceled," and that the judge in Hub had been transferred and a new judge appointed to the case. (The next day, November 3, 2007, President Musharraf issued a "Proclamation of Emergency" and suspended the Chief Justice and several other justices of the Pakistan Supreme Court.)

- Over a month later, in December 2007, a court in Zhob issued an order to have Dr. Sarki transferred to a hospital in Quetta for medical treatment. That order also was not implemented.

- On February 7, 2008, the court in Zhob issues a new order allowing Dr. Sarki's release on bail. The same day, however, the Baluchistan province-wide high court, apparently acting on its own initiative and without any hearing, overruled the bail release order.

Dr. Sarki's attorney, Mr. Sifton, said the legal irregularities in Hub and Zhob were the latest in a long line of abuses by the Pakistani government in the case.

"Pakistan first detained Sarki secretly, now they're detaining him publicly but denying him his legal rights."

The Pakistani government initially failed to notify the United States government of Sarki's detention in 2006 and has not allowed U.S. consular officials adequate access to him since late 2007, in violation of international law. Senior U.S. officials, including the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson and several members of the U.S. Congress, have repeatedly pressured the Pakistani government for explanations about Sarki's detention.

Dr. Sarki's family and friends today called on the Pakistan government to release Dr. Sarki and reunite him with his family.

"It's time for Pakistan to let Dr. Sarki go home," said Sifton.

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