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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
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
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.