AIJAZ ZAKA SYED Reading all those legal thrillers by John Grisham and watching Hollywood blockbusters that portray innocent individuals framed and ensnared by a powerful system, one always thought: Of course, these things do not happen in real life. I am not so sure anymore though. The abduction, persecution and now conviction of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, an MIT-educated neuroscientist, by the US authorities reads like a regulation Grisham thriller written for Hollywood. Aafia disappeared with her three children on her way to Karachi airport for Islamabad way back in 2003. Five years later, she was presented in a New York court in March 2008 as a top Al-Qaeda terrorist and the most dangerous woman on earth, as US Attorney-General Ashcroft put it. The US authorities claimed then that Aafia was captured near Ghazni governors office in Afghanistan with a bag that carried instructions on making explosives and a list of US landmarks.But more damningly, the US authorities claimed that the frail mother of three attacked a team of eight US soldiers, FBI and Afghan officials in Ghazni with a highly sophisticated, heavy M-4 gun in Ghazni when they went to question her. Surprisingly though, its Aafia who ended up with two gunshot wounds, inflicted point blank. None of the officials she allegedly attacked sustained any injuries or wounds. Last week, after months of courtroom drama and charade of a trial, Aafia was convicted of attempted murder. If you think this is an impossibly implausible yarn, you are right. This case, if it can be called that, is perhaps the most potent example of Orwellian justice and the evil and absurd nature of the so-called War on Terror. Like I said, you always believed that such things happened only in the movies and world of fiction. The biggest and most obvious absurdity of this case is the fact that Aafia was presented before the world as a dreaded terrorist and Al-Qaeda mastermind but she has been tried on the charges of assaulting US officials with the intent to kill. If she was a terrorist why she was not tried on terrorism charges and why on using a gun to attack US soldiers? Where was Aafia hiding or hidden between 2003 and 2008, after she was picked up in Karachi? How did she end up in Ghazni? What happened to her children? And if she had indeed been planning terror attacks, would she be moving around with the incriminating evidence of bomb-making material in her bag? And if she had really been on a murderous mission, would she set out with her three young children in tow? I mean the authorities could have at least demonstrated some common sense and ingenuity in framing and setting up Aafia. This is an insult to the intelligence of ordinary Americans and the rest of the world.I am no Sherlock Holmes or Perry Mason. But it doesnt take an extraordinary mind to unravel this cock-and-bull plot against a helpless, innocent woman. This whole thing stinks it stinks even at this distance.Lets face it: If Aafias imprisonment and persecution all these years was an affront to all that America claims to champion, the guilty verdict against her following this sham of a trial is the ultimate mockery of justice and due process of law. It just beats me how the New York court and jury returned a guilty verdict despite Aafias first person account of her frame-up and subsequent persecution and her physical condition. Moreover,there was absolutely no evidence linking Aafia to the gun, no bullets, no residue from firing it. Yet they found Aafia guilty and the minimum sentence Aafia faces on the ridiculous charges brought against her is life in prison. President Obama gave all of us hope when he took over from Bush, promising to shut down the Guantanamo Bay within a year and uphold justice and the rule of law. Even though the Gitmo is still far from shut, many of us still havent quite given up on Obamas promise to restore the worlds trust in America.He also promised of a new way forward with the Muslim world. Even on this front, he is yet to show progress.But if Obama is indeed keen to turn a new leaf with the Islamic world, he could do so by setting Aafia free. He should use his extraordinary powers to put an end to this poor womans terrible, terrible nightmare. Aafia has become the most potent symbol of injustice across the Islamic world and all that went horribly wrong with Bushs War. Obama could signal a break with that dark past by freeing Aafia. Let her go home, Mr President. God knows she has suffered enough. Its time to show America has moved on. - Khaleej Times