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Pakistani woman found guilty of trying to kill US soldiers

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-02-03

Aafia Siddiqui, a US-educated Pakistani woman, has been found guilty of trying to kill US security personnel in an Afghan police station in 2008. Her defence, which had tried to prove Siddiqui insane, said the verdict would be appealed.

AFP - A US-educated Pakistani woman was found guilty Wednesday of trying to kill American servicemen in Afghanistan.

Aafia Siddiqui, 37, a neuroscientist trained at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was found guilty on all charges by a jury in federal court.

A family lawyer immediately announced an appeal, citing "prejudice and bias."

Siddiqui was accused of grabbing a rifle at an Afghan police station where she was being interrogated in July 2008 and trying to gun down a group of US servicemen.

Although she was not charged with terrorism, prosecutors described her as a would-be terrorist who had also plotted to bomb New York.

Her lawyers tried to prove she was insane, but a judge ruled her fit to stand trial.

Tina Monshipour, an attorney for Siddiqui's family, said afterwards: "This verdict is being subject to an appeal."

"There were a lot of unfair decisions," Monshipour said. "She was portrayed as a terrorist even if there were no terrorism charges in this trial. This is one of those cases in which we see prejudice and bias invade the courtroom."

Siddiqui, wearing a white veil, repeatedly disrupted her trial with outbursts at the jury, witnesses and her own lawyers, including claims that she was a victim of Israel.

After being found guilty, she responded in similar fashion, saying: "This is a verdict from Israel, not America. The anger should be directed where it belongs."

The trial has drawn widespread attention because it is the most advanced in a string of current cases being handled by US prosecutors in what is frequently referred to as the "war on terror."

Several other suspects in alleged bomb plots are working their way through the system, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks, is also due to be tried -- possibly in New York.

A frail-looking woman who excelled in her US studies, Siddiqui featured on a 2004 US list of people suspected of Al-Qaeda links. She is also said to have married a relative of Mohammed, although this is disputed.

Prosecutors claimed that Siddiqui was arrested by Afghan police in the town of Ghazni with notes indicating plans to attack the Statue of Liberty and other New York landmarks.

However, she was charged only with attempted murder.

Prosecutors said she picked up a rifle in the police station where she was being held and opened fire on US servicemen and FBI representatives. She missed and was herself shot by one of the US soldiers.

Defense lawyers argued there was no physical evidence, such as finger prints or gunpowder traces, to show Siddiqui even grabbed the rifle, let alone opened fire.

Human rights groups have long speculated that Siddiqui may have been secretly imprisoned and tortured at the US base in Bagram, Afghanistan, during the five years prior to the 2008 incident.

The US military has denied she was ever held at the base.

Siddiqui was living in Pakistan when she vanished in March 2003. This was at a time of intense efforts by US-backed Pakistani security forces to root out Al-Qaeda, and relatives believe she was grabbed in one of these operations.

It remains unclear where she went during that period.

Siddiqui appeared to refer to the rumors during her trial, protesting during one of her outbursts: "If you were in a secret prison... (where) your children were tortured."

Date created : 2010-02-03