Aafia Siddiqui is a 37-year-old Pakistani scientist who trained in the US at Brandeis and at MIT. She was convicted on Wednesday of charges that she tried to kill Americans while being detained in Afghanistan in 2008. The jury was deliberated three days in a Manhattan federal court, before the gavel sounded its final slam.
As the jurors left the courtroom she raised her arms and shouted,
“This is a verdict coming from Israel, not America.”
She then turned toward the spectators and said,
“Your anger should be directed where it belongs. I can testify to this and I have proof.”
Siddiqui was convicted of two counts of attempted murder, even though the crime was not found to be premeditated. She was also convicted of armed assault, using and carrying a firearm, and assault of US officers and employees.
Before the arrest, US authorities had called Siddiqui an al-Qaeda sympathizer. She was never charged with terrorism, but prosecutors called her a grave threat that carried bomb-making instructions and a list of New York City landmarks including the Statue of Liberty at the time of her capture.
Attorney Christopher La Vigne said in his closing arguments that she
“is no shrinking violet…She does what she wants when she wants it…These charges are no joke. People almost died.”
Siddiqui testified in her own defense. She had been tortured and held in a “secret prison” before her detention. Charges that she had attacked US personnel who wanted to interrogate her were “crazy,” according to her. “It’s just ridiculous.”
In the courtroom, Siddiqui veiled her head and face with a white scarf and often sat slumped in her chair. She openly sparred with the judge and her own lawyers, insisted she could single-handedly bring peace to the Middle East and lashed out at witnesses in tirades, getting her kicked out of the courtroom on repeated occasions.
“I was never planning a bombing! You’re lying!”
she yelled while an Army captain testified.
In her closing argument, defense attorney Linda Moreno accused the prosecutors of trying to play on the jury’s fears:
“They want to scare you into convicting Aafia Siddiqui…The defense trusts that you’re much smarter than that.”
During the two-week trial, US soldiers and FBI agents testified that when they went to interrogate Siddiqui at an Afghan police station, she snatched up an unattended assault rifle and shot at them while yelling,
“Death to Americans.”
She was wounded by return fire but recovered and was brought to the United States to face charges of attempted murder, assault and gun charges.
One chief warrant officer, who testified in uniform but did not give his name, told jurors that he had set down his M4 rifle after being told Siddiqui had been restrained. He testified that he was shocked when she suddenly appeared from behind a curtain wielding his M4 rifle and yelling,
“It was pretty amazing she got that thing up and squared off,”
“She was looking at me and aiming dead at me.”
Hearing the rifle go off, the officer pulled out his pistol. Siddiqui was wrestling with an interpreter when he shot her in the stomach.
“I operated within the rules of engagement to eliminate the threat,”
the unnamed officer said.
I wonder what she meant when she said that the verdict came from Israel…hmm