The curious (and under-reported) trial in Manhattan of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui
In the current partisan environment every issue becomes politicized even without merit. It is surprising therefore that the trial of Pakistan scientist Dr. Aafia Siddiqui is gathering such little coverage in the mainstream press. The potential for other admittedly more high profile cases being tried in civil courts in Manhattan has caused apoplexy among the likes of Cheney and the hawks, but the current trial seems to warrant nary a whimper.
Dr. Siddiqui’s case is also interesting and bizarre for a number of other reasons. She was not charged for the alleged crime for which she was arrested, but for supposedly seizing a weapon while under arrest and opening fire on US troops. She was arrested in Afghanistan carrying “chemicals” and carrying a list of potential terror targets including the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, Siddiqui insisted she was not planning any attacks. Somehow, while under lock and key in an Afghan police station she got hold of an unsecured weapon and began firing at US troops.
The oddity of the case comes in the form of the physical evidence, or lack of it. The only party shot in the incident was Dr. Siddiqui herself, and there is no other physical evidence to support the case. In the small room where she was held and supposedly undertook her attack, there were no bullets, no casings, no bullet debris from the rifle and no bullet holes from the rifle in the room. This is an odd and under-reported case, which just gets curiouser and curiouser the deeper you delve into it.
Pakistan scientist Aafia Siddiqui’s lawyers concluded their arguments before a Manhattan court on Monday, insisting that there’s no physical evidence that their client had tried to kill American soldiers and FBI agents.
The trial of Dr Aafia, charged with shooting at her US interrogators in Afghanistan, moved into the final stage. As defence and prosecution lawyers delivered their closing arguments, the 16-member jury went into deliberations to reach a verdict. Sources said the verdict could come early next week.
Dr Aafia, who received graduate degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brandeis University in biology and neuroscience while living in the US between 1991 and June 2002, wasn’t in the courtroom as closing statements were made.
Highlighting contradictions in the accounts by prosecution witnesses, Dr Aafia’s lawyer Linda Moreno said there’s no physical evidence that her client handled the rifle or fired it.
In her closing statement, Ms Moreno said the soldiers and the FBI agents in the room contradicted each other in their testimony and their own statements given to the FBI following the incident.
The defence lawyer also said there were no M-4 bullets, no bullet debris from the M-4 rifle and no bullet holes from the rifle in the room.
“The indisputable fact is there is no physical evidence that an M-4 rifle was touched by Dr Aafia or fired by her,” Ms Moreno said.
She described the 300-square foot room in a court in Ghazni, where the alleged shooting took place as a “sort of a Bermuda Triangle of a room” if you believe the government’s theory in the case.
UPDATE - Verdict is in. Guilty as charged
Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui was convicted Wednesday of attempting to kill Americans in Afghanistan in 2008.
The jury found Siddiqui guilty of seven counts, including attempted murder and armed assault on U.S. officers.
The Manhattan jury began deliberations Monday afternoon and sent a note shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday saying they had reached a verdict.
Siddiqui listened to the verdict without emotion but let out an outburst once the jury was escorted out of the courtroom.
“This is a verdict from Israel, not America,” she said. “Anger should be directed to where it belongs. I can testify to this. I have proof.”
Authorities removed her from the courtroom. She will be sentenced May 6.