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November 9, 2018

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US offered to swap Aafia for Raymond, Bergdhal: sister

US offered to swap Aafia for Raymond, Bergdhal: sister

ISLAMABAD: The sister of Dr Aafia Siddiqui claims the Pakistani government turned down an earlier offer by the US to release the imprisoned Pakistani neuroscientist in exchange for Raymond Davis, a CIA operative who gunned down two men in Lahore in 2011.

In an exclusive conversation with Geo News on Thursday, Fouzia Siddiqui said Washington also offered the release of her sister for Bowe Bergdahl, a former US army soldier who spent years in Afghan Taliban captivity until his release in 2014.

"There were several instances when Aafia's return could have been possible. There was the time of Raymond Davis. I have clear-cut evidence that US offered Aafia for his exchange. But for these people (Pakistan government), other things became higher priorities," she said. "There was also the case of American soldier, Bowe Bergdahl. Aafia was also offered in exchange for him. But our government took other things in exchange."

Fouzia said Pakistan also missed the opportunity of seeking a presidential pardon for her sister from former US President Barack Obama. "He (Obama) gave pardon to several prisoners, but Pakistan did not act in time," she said.

Dr Aafia Siddiqui is a Pakistani neuroscientist and mother of three, who is in a US prison since 2010. She was sentenced to 86 years in prison for an attempt to murder and assault on the US military personnel, charges she denied. Her sister's comments come after the Pakistani government raised the issue of "respecting the human and legal rights" of Dr Aafia with the US Envoy Alice Wells who visited Islamabad earlier this week.

In a press statement, the Foreign Office said the government is raising the issue of Dr Aafia Siddiqui with US authorities regularly. "Pakistan's CG (Consul General) in Houston pays consular visits to Dr Siddiqui, periodically, to inquire after her well-being and conveys her messages to Dr Aafia's family if any," it said.

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