US trial begins for Pakistani woman alleged to be al-Qaeda agent

The federal trial of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman with alleged ties to al-Qaeda, began Jan. 19 in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Siddiqui is charged with assault and the attempted murder of a US officer after allegedly opening fire on agents at the Afghan detention facility where she was being held in July 2008. As soon as her trial began, Siddiqui became agitated and started screaming that she was innocent, causing her to be removed from the courtroom. Originally detained in Afghanistan because she was allegedly in possession of explosive chemicals and lists of New York City targets, Siddiqui has denied that she is part of any terrorist plot.

Siddiqui underwent a psychiatric evaluation and was judged fit to stand trial in July. Siddiqui, who was extradited to the US in August of 2008, was shot in the abdomen during the July skirmish leading to her charges. She has since refused proper medical care as well as communication with her legal counsel. Siddiqui’s family has insisted that she is not an al-Qaeda agent and that the FBI has publicized misleading information about her. They say that Siddiqui, a former student at Brandeis University and MIT in Boston, may have been a victim of extraordinary rendition after she vanished from Karachi, Pakistan, in 2003. Defense lawyers have alleged that Siddiqui may have been wrongly detained and tortured at Bagram air base in Afghanistan. Siddiqui was taken into custody in July 2008 after she was found loitering outside a provincial governor’s compound with suspicious items in her handbag. (Jurist, Jan. 20)

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