“Pakistani Woman Sentenced to 86 Years for Trying to Kill Americans,” by Chad Bray for the Wall Street Journal, September 23 (thanks to Sr. Soph):
NEW YORK–A Pakistani woman trained as a scientist in the U.S. was sentenced to 86 years in prison Thursday after she was convicted of trying to kill U.S. Army soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan two years ago.
Aafia Siddiqui, 38 years old, was convicted in February of grabbing a soldier’s M-4 assault rifle and trying to shoot an assembled group of Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and soldiers at an Afghan police compound in July 2008.
The U.S. team had traveled to the compound in Ghazni, Afghanistan, to interview her after she taken into custody by Afghan authorities, prosecutors said. Ms. Siddiqui was found at the time with materials that included handwritten notes referring to a “mass casualty attack” in the U.S. and listed several landmark locations in New York City, prosecutors said.
Prior to her sentencing, Ms. Siddiqui again proclaimed her innocence and disputed claims by her lawyers that she has a mental illness.
“I do not want a 9/11,” she said. “I do not want any bloodshed.”
A jury found Ms. Siddiqui guilty in February of seven charges, including two counts of attempted murder. The jury found there wasn’t premeditation in the attempted murder charges.
After she was sentenced Thursday, Ms. Siddiqui turned to the audience and urged the public to forgive the persons involved in her case and not to take any actions of revenge.
Prosecutors had alleged that Ms. Siddiqui, unbeknownst to the Americans who traveled to Ghazni, was behind a curtain in the second-floor room where they gathered. She burst from behind the curtain, grabbed an American soldier’s rifle and started firing, prosecutors said.
She was shot in the abdomen by a soldier who returned fire with his sidearm, prosecutors said.
Ms. Siddiqui, who received graduate degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brandeis University in biology and neuroscience while living in the U.S. between 1991 and June 2002, has denied grabbing the weapon or having any familiarity with firearms.
At trial, she testified that she was simply trying to escape the room and was shot by someone who saw her. She claimed she was concerned at the time about being transferred to a “secret” prison.
“He saw me and he got scared. He said, ‘she’s free’ or ‘she’s loose,’ ” she said at the time.
On Thursday, Ms. Siddiqui, who has previously expressed displeasure with her lawyers and the U.S. legal process, said that she didn’t want the lawyers on her case to file an appeal and that she didn’t want them to take any further action in her case.
Ms. Siddiqui’s mental state has loomed large over her trial, with her lawyers claiming she suffers from schizophrenia.
U.S. District Judge Richard Berman, who is presiding, found her comptent to stand trial. He noted Thursday that experts for the defense and the prosecution gave conflicting opinions about Ms. Siddiqui’s mental state and that she had been uncooperative with prison psychologists.
During the hearing, Ms. Siddiqui raised her hands and shook her head several times when her lawyer, Dawn Cardi, argued she had a mental illness.
“I do not have any mental illness,” Ms. Siddiqui said.
The judge ordered that she receive periodic mental evaluations while serving her sentence.