Facial composite, created by FBI for a wanted poster[
|Born||March 2, 1972 |
|Other names||Fahrem; Saliha; Feriel Shahin|
|Alma mater||M.I.T., B.S. (1995)|
Brandeis, Ph.D. (2001)
|Criminal charge||i) Two counts of attempted murder of U.S. nationals, officers, and employees;|
ii) Assault with a deadly and dangerous weapon;
iii) Carrying and using a firearm; and
iv) three counts of assault on U.S. officers and employees.
|Criminal penalty||Convicted; awaiting September 23, sentencing.|
|Criminal status||being held at Metropolitan Detention Center, Brooklyn|
|Spouse(s)||Mohammed Khan (1995 – October 21, 2002);|
Ammar al-Baluchi (2003–present)
|Children||Mohammad Ahmed/Ali Hassan (b. 1996);|
Mariam Bint Muhammad (b. 1998); and
Suleman (b. September 2002)
|Parents||Muhammad Salay Siddiqui (father);|
Ismet (née Faroochi) Siddiqui (mother)
|Relatives||Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, uncle of her husband|
Aafia Siddiqui (born March 2, 1972, in Karachi, Pakistan) is an American-educated Pakistani cognitive neuroscientist. who was charged on July 31, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, with assault with a deadly weapon, and with attempting to kill U.S. personnel. She was flown to New York on August 6, and indicted on September 3, 2008, on two counts of attempted murder of U.S. nationals, officers, and employees, assault with a deadly weapon, carrying and using a firearm, and three counts of assault on U.S. officers and employees.. Siddiqui is a folk-hero in Pakistan where she is widely believed to be an innocent victim of a government conspiracy, even by Human Rights Organizations such as the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).
A devout Muslim who was involved with Islamic charities, she disappeared with her three young children in March 2003 in Pakistan shortly after the arrest of her second husband's uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged chief planner of the September 11 attacks. The FBI then issued a global "seeking information" alert for Siddiqui.In May 2004, she was named one of the seven "most wanted" al-Qaeda fugitives by the FBI.
Many of Siddiqui's supporters, including international human rights organizations, have claimed that Siddiqui was not an extremist and that she and her young children were illegally detained and interrogated by Pakistani intelligence during her five year disappearance, likely at the behest of the U.S. Siddiqui’s family has said she was abducted and tortured by U.S. intelligence. The U.S. and Pakistan governments have denied all such claims.
Siddiqui is the youngest of three siblings. She attended school in Zambia until the age of eight, and then subsequently in Karachi, Pakistan. Her father, Muhammad Salay Siddiqui, was a British-trained neurosurgeon, and her mother, Ismet (née Faroochi), is a now-retired Islamic teacher and social worker, who was prominent in political-religious circles. Her brother, Mohammad Azi Siddiqui, is an architect who lives in Texas; her sister, Fowzia, is a Harvard-trained neurologist who lives and works in Pakistan.
Siddiqui moved to Texas in the United States on a student visa in 1990, joining her brother. She attended the University of Houston for three semesters, then tansferred to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after being awarded a full scholarship. In 1992, as a sophomore, Siddiqui received a Carroll L. Wilson Award for her research proposal "Islamization in Pakistan and its Effects on Women". As a junior, she received a $1,200 City Days fellowship through MIT's program to help clean up Cambridge elementary school playgrounds. While she initially majored in Biochemical and Biophysical Studies at MIT, she graduated in 1995 with a BS in Biology.
She was regarded as religious by her fellow MIT students, but not unusually so: Marnie Biando, a former student who lived in the dorm at the time said "She was just nice and soft-spoken, [and not] terribly assertive." She joined the Muslim Students' Association (MSA) and a fellow Pakistani recalls her recruiting for association meetings and distributing pamphlets. Journalist Deborah Scroggins said in 2005 that "if Aafia was drawn into the world of terrorism, it may have been through the contacts and friendships she made in the early 1990s working for MIT’s Muslim Student Association." (MSA).
Siddiqui solicited money for the Al Kifah Refugee Center, an organization which had been founded by Abdullah Azzam, a mentor of Osama bin Laden. In addition to aiding Bosnian refugees, the organization had fundraised for the 1980s fighting in Afghanistan, had a member who killed Rabbi Meir Kahane in 1990, was tied to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and later formed the nucleus for al-Qaeda. Through the MSA she met several committed Islamists, including Suheil Laher, its imam, who publicly advocated Islamization and jihad before 9/11.
When Pakistan asked the U.S. and other Western nations for help in 1995 in combating religious extremism, Siddiqui sent around a scornful email deriding Pakistan's government and quoting a passage from the Quran that Muslims should not take Jews and Christians as friends. Siddiqui wrote three guides for teaching Islam, expressing the hope in one: "more and more people come to the [religion] of Allah until America becomes a Muslim land."
In the 1990s, she took a 12-hour pistol training course, according to an employee of a rifle club who testified at her 2010 trial.
Graduate school, work and marriage
Amjad Mohammed Khan, Siddiqui's first husband
In 1995 her relatives arranged for her to marry a man she had never seen, Amjad Mohammed Khan, a Karachi, Pakistan resident who was a recent medical school grad. The marriage ceremony was conducted over the telephone.Khan then came to the U.S., and the couple lived first in Lexington, Massachusetts, and then in the Mission Hill neighborhood of Roxbury (in Boston), where he worked as an anesthesiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital. She gave birth to a son, Mohammad Ahmed/Ali Hassan in 1996, and to a daughter, Mariam Bint e Muhammad, in 1998; both are American citizens.
Siddiqui studied cognitive neuroscience at Brandeis University, receiving a Ph.D. in 2001 for her dissertation, "Separating the Components of Imitation". She also co-authored a journal article on selective learning. and taught General Biology Lab, a course required for undergraduate biology majors, pre-med and pre-dental students, in early 1999.
In 1999, while living in Boston, Siddiqui (as president), her husband (as treasurer), and her sister (as resident agent) founded the Institute of Islamic Research and Teaching as a nonprofit organization. On October 3, 2005, the Internal Revenue Service revoked the organization's charitable status. She attended a mosque outside the city where she stored copies of the Quran and other Islamic literature for distribution. She also helped establish the Dawa Resource Center, a program that distributed Qurans and offered Islam-based advice to prison inmates.
Divorce, remarriage, and al-Qaeda allegations
According to a dossier prepared in 2004 by UN investigators for the 9/11 Commission, Siddiqui, using the alias Fahrem or Feriel Shahin, was one of six alleged al-Qaeda members who bought $19 million worth blood diamonds in Monrovia, Liberia immediately prior to the September 11, 2001, attacks. The diamonds were purchased because they were easily transportable, convertible, and untraceable assets to be used for funding al-Qaeda operations. The identification was made three years after the incident by one of the go-betweens in the Liberian deal. However, her family and that of her husband said it is impossible. Siddiqui's lawyer said there are credit card receipts and other records which show that she was in Boston at the time; FBI agent Dennis Lormel, who investigated terrorism financing, said the agency quickly ruled out her involvement, although she remained suspected of money laundering.
In the summer of 2001, the couple moved to Malden, Massachusetts. According to Khan, after the September 11 attacks, Siddiqui insisted on leaving the U.S., saying that it was unsafe for them and their children to remain. He also said that she wanted him to move to Afghanistan, and work as a medic for the mujahideen.
In May 2002, the FBI questioned Siddiqui and her husband regarding their purchase over the internet of $10,000 worth of night vision equipment, body armor, and military manuals including The Anarchist's Arsenal, Fugitive, Advanced Fugitive, and How to Make C- Khan claimed that these were for hunting and camping expeditions. On June 26, 2002, the couple and their children returned to Pakistan.
In August 2002, Khan said Siddiqui was abusive and manipulative throughout their seven years of marriage; her violent personality and extremist views led him to suspect her of involvement in jihadi activities. Khan went to Siddiqui's parents' home, and announced his intention to divorce her and argued with her father. The latter died of a heart attack on August 15, 2002. In September 2002, Siddiqui gave birth to the last of their three children, Suleman. The couple's divorce was finalized on October 21, 2002.
The BBC reported that Siddiqui worked briefly in Baltimore after the birth, and returned to Pakistan in December. She left again for the US on December 25, 2002, informing her ex-husband that she was looking for a job; she returned on January 2, 2003. Amjad later said he was suspicious of her explanation as universities were on winter break. The FBI linked her to an alleged al-Qaeda operative, Majid Khan, who they suspected of having planned attacks on gas stations and underground fuel-storage tanks in the Baltimore/Washington area. They said that the real purpose of her trip was to open a post office box, to make it appear that Majid was still in the US. Siddiqui listed Majid Khan as a co-owner of the P.O. box, falsely identified him as her husband. The P.O. box key was later found in the possession of Uzair Paracha, who was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in federal prison in 2006 of providing material support to al-Qaeda.
Approximately six months after her first marriage ended, she married accused al-Qaeda member Ammar al-Baluchi in Karachi. Al Baluchi, also known as Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, is a nephew of al-Qaeda leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and a cousin of Ramzi Yousef, convicted of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.Although Siddiqui's family denied her marriage to al-Baluchi, it was confirmed by Pakistani and US intelligence, a defense psychologist, and by Mohammed's family.Siddiqui herself confirmed it in court, but she disavowed his connections to al Qaeda. Al-Baluchi was arrested on April 29, 2003, and taken to the Guantanamo Bay military prison; he faces the death penalty in his upcoming trial in the U.S., for aiding the 9/11 hijackers.
In early 2003, while Siddiqui was working at Aga Khan University in Karachi, she emailed a former professor at Brandeis and expressed interest in working in the U.S., citing lack of options in Karachi for women of her academic background.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Siddiqui's second husband's uncle, who reportedly revealed her name during his interrogation.
According to the media, Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, alleged al-Qaeda chief planner of the September 11 attacks, was interrogated by the CIA after his arrest on March 1, 2003.Mohammed was tortured by waterboarding 183 times, and his confessions triggered a series of related arrests shortly thereafter. The press reported Mohammed naming Siddiqui as an al-Qaeda operative; On March 25, 2003, the FBI issued a global "wanted for questioning" alert for Siddiqui and her ex-husband, Amjad Khan. Khan was questioned by the FBI, and released.
Afraid the FBI would find her in Karachi, she left her parents' house along with her three children on March 30. She took a taxi to the airport, ostensibly to catch a morning flight to Islamabad to visit her uncle, but disappeared. Siddiqui's and her children's whereabouts and activities from March 2003 to July 2008 are a matter of dispute.
On April 1, 2003, local newspapers reported, and Pakistan interior ministry confirmed, that a woman had been taken into custody on terrorism charges. The Boston Globe described "sketchy" Pakistani news reports saying Pakistani authorities had detained Siddiqui, and had questioned her with FBI agents.However, a couple of days later, both the Pakistan government and the FBI publicly denied having anything to do with her disappearance. On April 22, 2003, two U.S. federal law enforcement officials anonymously said Siddiqui had been taken into custody by Pakistani authorities. Pakistani officials never confirmed the arrest, however, and later that day the U.S. officials amended their earlier statements, saying new information made it "doubtful" she was in custody. Her sister Fauzia claimed Interior Minister Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat said that her sister had been released and would be returning home "shortly".
—Headline reference to Siddiqui in New York Daily News
—Headline reference to Siddiqui in Tehran Times
According to her ex-husband, after the global alert for her was issued Siddiqui went into hiding, and worked for al-Qaeda.During her disappearance Khan said he saw her at Islamabad airport in April 2003, as she disembarked from a flight with their son, and said he helped Inter-Services Intelligence identify her. He said he again saw her two years later, in a Karachi traffic jam.
Media reports Siddiqui having told the FBI that she worked at the Karachi Institute of Technology in 2005, was in Afghanistan in the winter of 2007; she stayed for a time during her disappearance in Quetta, Pakistan, and was sheltered by various people. According to an intelligence official in the Afghan Ministry of the Interior, her son Ahmad, who was with her when she was arrested, said he and Siddiqui had worked in an office in Pakistan, collecting money for poor people. He told Afghan investigators that on August 14, 2008, they had traveled by road from Quetta, Pakistan, to Afghanistan. Amjad Khan, who unsuccessfully sought custody of his eldest son, Ahmad, said most of the claims of the family in the Pakistani media relating to her and their children were to garner public support and sympathy for her; he said they were one-sided and in mostly false.An Afghan intelligence official said he believes that Siddiqui was working with Jaish-e-Mohammed (the "Army of Muhammad), a Pakistani Islamic mujahedeen military group that fights in Kashmir and Afghanistan.
Siddiqui's maternal uncle, Shams ul-Hassan Faruqi, said that on January 22, 2008, she visited him in Islamabad. She said she had been held by Pakistani agencies, and asked for his help in order to cross into Afghanistan, where she thought she would be safe in the hands of the Taliban.He had worked in Afghanistan, and made contact with the Taliban in 1999, but told her he was no longer in touch with them. He notified his sister, Siddiqui's mother, who came the next day to see her daughter. He said that Siddiqui stayed with them for two days.Her uncle has signed an affidavit swearing to these facts.
Ahmad and Siddiqui reappeared in 2008.Afghan authorities handed the boy over to Pakistan in September 2008, and he now lives with his aunt in Karachi, who has prohibited him from talking to the press. In April 2010, Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that a 12-year-old girl who was found outside a house in Karachi was identified by a DNA test as Siddiqui's daughter Mariyam, and that she had been returned to her family.
Siddiqui's sister and mother denied that she had any connections to al-Qaeda, and that the U.S. detained her secretly in Afghanistan after she disappeared in Pakistan in March 2003 with her three children. They point to comments by former Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, detainees who say they believe a woman held at the prison while they were there was Siddiqui. Her sister said that Siddiqui had been raped, and tortured for five years. According to Islamic convert and former Taliban captive Yvonne Ridley, Siddiqui spent those years in solitary confinement at Bagram as Prisoner 650. Six human rights groups, including Amnesty International, listed her as possibly being a "ghost prisoner" held by the U.S. Siddiqui herself gave conflicting explanations.She alternately claimed that she had been kidnapped by U.S. intelligence and Pakistani intelligence, while also claiming that she was working for Pakistani intelligence during this time.
Siddiqui has not explained clearly what happened to her two other missing children. She has alternated between saying that the two youngest children are dead, and that they are with her sister Fowzia, according to a psychiatric exam. She told one FBI agent that sometimes one has to take up a cause that is more important than one's children. Khan said he believed that the missing children were in Karachi, either with or in contact with Siddiqui's family, and not in U.S. detention.He said that they were seen in her sister's house in Karachi and in Islamabad on several occasions since their alleged disappearance in 2003.
The U.S. government said it did not hold Siddiqui during that time period, and had no knowledge of her whereabouts from March 2003 until July 2008. The US ambassador to Islamabad, Anne Patterson, categorically stated that Siddiqui had not been in US custody "at any time" prior to July 2008. A U.S. Justice Department spokesman called the allegations "absolutely baseless and false", a CIA spokesman also denied that she had been detained by the U.S., and Gregory Sullivan, a State Department spokesman, said: "For several years, we have had no information regarding her whereabouts whatsoever. It is our belief that she ... has all this time been concealed from the public view by her own choosing."Assistant U.S. Attorney David Raskin said in 2008 that U.S. agencies had searched for evidence to support allegations that Siddiqui was detained in 2003, and held for years, but found "zero evidence" that she was abducted, kidnapped, or tortured. He added: "A more plausible inference is that she went into hiding because people around her started to get arrested, and at least two of those people ended up at Guantanamo Bay.According to some U.S. officials, she went underground after the FBI alert for her was issued, and was at large working on behalf of al-Qaeda.The Guardian cites an anonymous senior Pakistani official suggesting an "invaluable asset" like Siddiqui may have been "flipped" — turned against militant sympathisers — by Pakistani or American intelligence.
Ahmed Siddiqui's account
Ahmed Siddiqu, son of Aafia Siddiqui, in 2008.
In August 2010 Yvonne Ridley reported that she had acquired a three paragraph statement taken from Ahmed by a US officer before he was released from US custody. Ahmed describe Aafia driving a vehicle taking the family from Karachi to Islamabad, when it was overtaken by several vehicles, and he and his mother were taken into custody. He described the bloody body of his baby brother being left on the side of the road. He said that he had been too afraid to ask his interrogators who they were, but that they included both Pakistanis and Americans. He described beatings when he was in US custody. Eventually, he said, he was sent to a conventional childrens' prison in Pakistan.
His statement does not describe how he and his mother came to be in Ghazni in 2008.
The Plum Island Animal Disease Center, one of the locations listed in Siddiqui's notes with regard to a "mass casualty" attack
According to court documents, Siddiqui was encountered on the evening of July 17, 2008, by officers of the police in Ghazni Province outside the Ghazni governor's compound. A man who feared she might be concealing a bomb under the burqua that she was wearing called the police.She said her name was Saliha, that she was from Multan in Pakistan, and that the boy's name was Ali Hassan. Discovering that she did not speak either of Afghanistan's main dialects, Pashtu or Dari, the officers regarded her as suspicious.
In a bag she was carrying, the police found that she had a number of documents written in Urdu and English describing the creation of explosives, chemical weapons, Ebola, dirty bombs, and radiological agents (which discussed mortality rates of certain of the weapons), and handwritten notes referring to a "mass casualty attack" that listed various U.S. locations and landmarks (including the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the New York City subway system), according to her indictment.The Globe also mentioned one document about a 'theoretical' biological weapon that did not harm children.She also reportedly had documents detailing U.S. "military assets", excerpts from The Anarchist's Arsenal, a one-gigabyte digital media storage device that contained over 500 electronic documents (including correspondence referring to attacks by "cells", describing the U.S. as an enemy, and discussing recruitment of jihadists and training), maps of Ghazni and the provincial governor's compounds and the mosques he prayed in, and photos of Pakistani military people.Other notes described various ways to attack enemies, including by destroying reconnaissance drones, using underwater bombs, and using gliders.
She also had "numerous chemical substances in gel and liquid form that were sealed in bottles and glass jars", according to the later complaint against her, and about two pounds of sodium cyanide, a highly toxic poison. Abdul Ghani, Ghazni's deputy police chief, said she later confessed that she intended to carry out a suicide attack against the provincial governor.
The officers arrested her, as she cursed them, and took her to a police station. She said that the boy found with her was her stepson, Ali Hasan; Siddiqui subsequently admitted he was her biological son when DNA testing proved that the boy to be Ahmed.
There are conflicting accounts of the events following her arrest which led to her being sent to the United States for trial – American authorities say that the following day, on July 18, two FBI agents, a U.S. Army warrant officer, a U.S. Army captain, and their U.S. military interpreters arrived in Ghazni to interview Siddiqui at the Afghan National Police facility where she was being held.
The Americans witnesses reported they congregated in a meeting room that was partitioned by a curtain, but did not realize that Siddiqui was standing unsecured behind the curtain. The warrant officer sat down adjacent to the curtain, and put his loaded M-4 assault rifle on the floor by his feet, next to the curtain. Siddiqui, drew back the curtain, picked up the rifle, and pointed it at the captain.Then, the situation became very chaotic, An Afghan interpreter who was seated closest to her lunged, grabbed and pushed the rifle, and tried to wrest it from her as she fired 'at least two shots' and exclaimed "Allah Akbar!". At that point the warrant officer shot at her with a 9-millimeter pistol, hitting her in the torso, and one of the interpreters managed to wrestle the rifle away from her.The female medic who was assigned to maintain watch over her failed to monitor Siddiqui prior to the scuffle and proceeded to run and hide in an adjoining room once the struggle began.
According to Pakistani senators who later visited her in jail, Siddiqui related a different version of events. She denied touching a gun, shouting, or threatening anyone. She said that she stood up so she could see who was on the other side of the curtain, and that after one of the startled soldiers shouted, "She is loose", she was shot. On regaining consciousness, she said someone said "We could lose our jobs."
Afghan police offered a third version of the events, telling Reuters that U.S. troops had demanded that she be handed over, disarmed the Afghans when they refused, and then shot Siddiqui mistakenly thinking she was a suicide bomber.
She was taken to Bagram Air Base by helicopter in critical condition. When she arrived at the hospital she was 3 on Glasgow Coma Scale, but she underwent emergency surgery without complication while hospitalized at the Craig Theater Joint Hospital, and recovered over the next two weeks. Once she was in a stable condition, the Pakistani government allowed the Americans to transport her to the United States for trial; at no time did she have legal counsel. The day after landing, Siddiqui was arraigned in a Manhattan courtroom on charges of attempted murder. Her three-person defense team was hired by the Pakistani embassy to supplement her two existing public defenders, but Siddiqui refused to cooperate with them.
Siddiqui was charged on July 31, 2008, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, with assault with a deadly weapon, and with attempting to kill U.S. personnel. She was flown to New York on August 6, and indicted on September 3, 2008, on two counts of attempted murder of U.S. nationals, officers, and employees, assault with a deadly weapon, carrying and using a firearm, and three counts of assault on U.S. officers and employees. Bruce Hoffman, professor of security studies at Georgetown University, said the decision considerably simplified the case, without needing to rely on intelligence data or exposing sources and methods: "It’s a good old-fashioned crime; it’s the equivalent of a 1920s gangster with a tommy gun."
Medical treatment and psychological assessments
According to FBI reports prepared shortly after July 18, 2008, Siddiqui repeatedly denied shooting anyone. On August 11, after her counsel informed the court that Siddiqui had not seen a doctor since arriving in the U.S. the previous week, U.S. magistrate judge Henry B. Pitman ordered that she be examined by a medical doctor within 24 hours. Prosecutors maintained that Siddiqui had been provided with adequate medical care. The judge postponed her bail hearing until September 3. An examination by a doctor the following day found no visible signs of infection; she also received a CAT scan.
Siddiqui was provided care for her wound while incarcerated in the U.S. In September 2008, a prosecutor reported to the court that Siddiqui had refused to be examined by a female doctor, despite the doctor's extensive efforts. On September 9, 2008, she underwent a forced medical exam. In a March 2009 report, Saathoff noted that Siddiqui frequently verbally and physically refused to allow the medical staff to check her vital signs and weight, attempted to refuse medical care once it was apparent that her wound had largely healed, and refused to take antibiotics.At the same time, Siddiqui claimed to her brother that when she needed medical treatment she did not get it, which Saathoff said he found no support for in his review of documents and interviews with medical and security personnel, and his interviews with Siddiqui.
Siddiqui's trial was subject to delays, the longest being six months in order to perform psychiatric evaluations. She had been given routine mental health check-ups ten times in August and six times in September. Prison psychologist Dr. Diane McLean diagnosed Siddiqui with psychosis on September 2. One week later, McLean diagnosed her condition as chronic. Forensic psychologist Leslie Powers initially determined Siddiqui mentally unfit to stand trial. After reviewing portions of FBI reports, however, she told the pre-trial judge she believed Siddiqui was faking mental illness.
In psychological assessments for the prosecution, three of four psychiatrists concluded that she was faking her symptoms. One suggested that this was to prevent criminal prosecution, and to improve her chances of being returned to Pakistan. In April 2009, Manhattan federal judge Richard Berman held that she "may have some mental health issues" but was competent to stand trial.
Jury selection controversy; threatened boycott
Siddiqui said she did not want Jews on the jury. She demanded that all prospective jurors be DNA-tested, and excluded from the jury at her trial:
if they have a Zionist or Israeli background ... they are all mad at me ... I have a feeling everyone here is them—subject to genetic testing. They should be excluded, if you want to be fair.
Siddiqui's legal team said, in regard to her comments, that her incarceration had damaged her mind.
Prior to her trial, Siddiqui said she was innocent of all charges. She maintained she could prove she was innocent, but refused to do so in court. On January 11, 2010, Siddiqui told the Judge that she would not cooperate with her attorneys, and wanted to fire them.She also said she did not trust the Judge, and added, “I’m boycotting the trial, just to let all of you know. There’s too many injustices." She then put her head down on the defense table as the prosecution proceeded.
Siddiqui's trial began in New York City on January 19, 2010. Prior to the jury entering the courtroom, Siddiqui told onlookers that she would not work with her lawyers because the court was not fair.She also said: "I have information about attacks, more than 9/11! ... I want to help the President to end this group, to finish them ... They are a domestic, U.S. group; they are not Muslim."
Nine government witnesses were called by the prosecution: Army Captain Robert Snyder, John Threadcraft, a former army officer, and FBI agent John Jefferson testified first.As Snyder testified that Siddiqui had been arrested with a handwritten note outlining plans to attack various U.S. sites, she retorted: "If you were in a secret prison ... where children were tortured ... This is no list of targets against New York. I was never planning to bomb it. You're lying." The court also heard from FBI agent John Jefferson and Ahmed Gul, an army interpreter, who recounted their struggle with her.
The defense said there was no forensic evidence that the rifle was fired in the interrogation room. They noted the nine government witnesses offered conflicting accounts of how many people were in the room, where they were positioned and how many shots were fired. It said it her handbag contents were not credible as evidence because they were sloppily handled.According to the Associated Press of Pakistan, Carlo Rosati, an FBI firearms expert witness in the federal court doubted whether the M-4 rifle was ever fired at the crime scene.; an FBI agent testified that Siddiqui's fingerprints were not found on the rifle. The prosecution argued that it was not unusual to fail to get fingerprints off a gun. "This is a crime that was committed in a war zone, a chaotic and uncontrolled environment 6,000 miles away from here." Gul's testimony appeared, according to the defense, to differ from that given by Snyder with regard to whether Siddiqui was standing or on her knees as she fired the rifle. When Siddiqui testified, though she admitted trying to escape, she denied that she had grabbed the rifle and said she had been tortured in secret prisons before her arrest by a “group of people pretending to be Americans, doing bad things in America’s name.”
During the trial, Siddiqui was removed from the court several times for repeatedly interrupting the proceedings with shouting; on being ejected, she was told by the judge that she could watch the proceedings on closed-circuit television in an adjacent holding cell. A request by the defense lawyers to declare a mistrial was turned down by the judge.
Metropolitan Detention Center, Brooklyn, where Siddiqui was imprisoned
The trial lasted 14 days, with the jury deliberating for three days before reaching a verdict. On February 3, 2010, she was found guilty of two counts of attempted murder, armed assault, using and carrying a firearm, and three counts of assault on U.S. officers and employees. After jurors found Siddiqui guilty, she exclaimed: "This is a verdict coming from Israel, not America. That’s where the anger belongs."
She faces a minimum sentence of 30 years and a maximum of life in prison on the firearm charge, and could also receive a sentence of up to 20 years for each attempted murder and armed assault charge, and up to 8 years on each of the remaining assault counts. Her lawyers have requested a 12 year sentence, instead of the life sentence recommended by the probation office. They have argued that mental illness drove her actions when she attempted to escape from the Afghan National Police station "by any means available... what she viewed as a horrific fate". Her lawyers have also claimed her mental illness was on display during her trial outbursts and boycotts, and that she is "first and foremost" the victim of her own irrational behavior. The sentencing hearing, which was set to take place on May 6, 2010, was rescheduled for mid-August 2010, and is likely to be postponed until September or later, according to the Associated Press.
As of 2010 Aafia Siddiqui, Federal Bureau of Prisons #90279-054, is being held at Metropolitan Detention Center, Brooklyn.
Reaction in Pakistan
In August 2009, Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani met with Siddiqui's sister at his residence, and assured her that Pakistan would seek Siddiqui's release from the U.S. The Pakistani government paid $2 million for the services of three lawyers to defend Siddiqui during her trial. Many Siddiqui supporters were present during the proceedings, and outside the court dozens of people rallied to demand her release.
A petition was filed seeking action against the Pakistani government for it having not approached the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to have Siddiqui released from the United States. Barrister Javed Iqbal Jaffree said the CIA arrested Siddiqui in Karachi in 2003, and one of her sons was killed during her arrest. On January 21, 2010, he submitted documents allegedly proving the arrest to the Lahore High Court.
In Pakistan, Siddiqui's February 2010 conviction was followed with expressions of support by many Pakistanis, who appeared increasingly anti-American, as well as by politicians and the news media, who characterized her as a symbol of victimization by the United States. Her ex-husband, Amjad Khan, was one of the few who expressed a different view, saying that Siddiqui was "reaping the fruit of her own decision. Her family has been portraying Aafia as a victim. We would like the truth to come out.
After Siddiqui's conviction, she sent a message through her lawyer, saying that "she doesn’t want there to be violent protests or violent reprisals in Pakistan over this verdict." Thousands of students, political and social activists protested in Pakistan. Some shouted anti-American slogans, while burning the American flag and effigies of President Barack Obama in the streets. Her sister has spoken frequently and passionately on her behalf at rallies. Echoing her family's comments, and anti-U.S. sentiment, many believe she was picked up in Karachi in 2003, detained at the U.S. Bagram Airbase, and tortured, and that the charges against her were fabricated.
The Pakistani Embassy in Washington, DC, expressed its dismay over the verdict, which followed "intense diplomatic and legal efforts on her behalf. [We] will consult the family of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and the team of defense lawyers to determine the future course of action." Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani described Siddiqui as a “daughter of the nation,” and opposition leader Nawaz Sharif promised to push for her release. On February 18, President Asif Ali Zardari requested of Richard Holbrooke, U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, that the U.S. consider repatriating Siddiqui to Pakistan under the Pakistan-U.S. Prisoner Exchange Agreement. On February 22, the Pakistani Senate passed a resolution expressing its grave concern over Siddiqui's sentence, and demanding that the government take effective steps including diplomatic measures to secure her immediate release.
Shireen Mazari, editor of the right-wing Pakistani newspaper The Nation, wrote that the verdict "did not really surprise anyone familiar with the vindictive mindset of the U.S. public post-9/11". Foreign Policy reported that rumors about her alleged sexual abuse by captors, fuelled by constant stories in the Pakistani press, had made her a folk hero, and "become part of the legend that surrounds her, so much so that they are repeated as established facts by her supporters, who have helped build her iconic status".
Steve Inskeep of National Public Radio noted on March 1 that while when Siddiqui's case has been covered in the U.S., it has mostly been described as a straightforward case of terrorism, in contrast when "the Pakistani media described this very same woman, this very same case, the assumptions are all very different". The News International, Pakistan's largest circulation English tabloid, carried a March 3 letter from Talat Farooq, the executive editor of the magazine Criterion in Islamabad, in which she wrote:
The media has highlighted her ordeal without debating the downside of her story in objective detail. A whole generation of Pakistanis, grown up in an environment that discourages critical analysis and dispassionate objectivity ... has ... allowed their emotions to be exploited. The Aafia case is complex... The grey lady is grey precisely because of her murky past and the question mark hanging over her alleged links to militants.... Her family's silence during the years of her disappearance, and her ex-husband's side of the story, certainly provide fodder to the opposing point of view.... The right-wing parties ... have once again played the card of anti-Americanism to attain their own political ends.... Our hatred of America, based on some very real grievances, also serves as a readily available smokescreen to avoid any rational thinking.... The response of the religious political lobby to Aafia's plight is symbolic of our social mindset.
A New York Times article reviewing the Pakistani reaction noted: "All of this has taken place with little national soul-searching about the contradictory and frequently damning circumstances surrounding Ms. Siddiqui, who is suspected of having had links to Al Qaeda and the banned jihadi group Jaish-e-Muhammad. Instead, the Pakistani news media have broadly portrayed her trial as a “farce”, and an example of the injustices meted out to Muslims by the United States since Sept. 11, 2001."
Jessica Eve Stern, a terrorism specialist and lecturer at Harvard Law School, observed: "Whatever the truth is, this case is of great political importance because of how people [in Pakistan] view her."
According to the Pakistani newspaper The News International, the Taliban has threatened to execute captured U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl, whom they have held since June 2009, in retaliation for Siddiqui's conviction. They claim members of Siddiqui's family requested their help. A Taliban spokesman said:
We tried our best to make the family understand that our role may create more troubles for the hapless woman, who was already in trouble. On their persistent requests, we have now decided to include Dr Aafia Siddiqui's name in the list of our prisoners in US custody that we delivered to Americans in Afghanistan for swap of their soldier in our custody