Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dr Aafia Siddiqui spoke directly to her jurors in a US court on Thursday when the Pakistani neuroscientist took the stand and rejected as “ridiculous” the charge that she grabbed a M-4 rifle to kill US interrogators in Afghanistan, saying she was framed for the alleged crime.

“It’s just ridiculous. I didn’t do that,” Ms. Siddiqui said of the attempted murder charge, in a clear and confident tone as she, for the first time, gave her version of the shooting incident at the police headquarters in Ghazni where a soldier shot her in the abdomen.

The jury listened to her intently as she described her ordeal in the packed US District Court in Manhattan, presided over by Judge Richard Berman.

Ms. Siddiqui, who decided to testify over the objections of her lawyers, repeatedly told the court that she had been held in “secret prisons” and tortured before her arrest in Afghanistan. But she was told by the judge time and again not to talk about the events before the July 2008 incident.

Experts said that it appeared the defence lawyers’ fears about Ms. Siddiqui taking the stand were misplaced. “She did very well. I am relieved that she told her side of the story to the jury, including her concerns for her children,” Attorney Tina Foster and family spokesman told reporters afterwards.

“I’m hopeful now,” Ms. Foster said, pointing out that the prosecution had produced no physical evidence and their witnesses’ testimonies were inconsistent.

On Thursday, the defendant told the jury her children were always on her mind and she was in a “daze” at the time of her arrest in Ghazni. She was afraid that she was again going to be transferred to a “secret” prison by the Americans and was trying to slip out of the room where was shot.

Ms. Siddiqui testified she was shot shortly after she peeked from the side of a curtain dividing the room to see if there was a way she might slip out of it. “I was very confused,” she said. “I wanted to get out. ... I was afraid.”

She not only denied firing the M-4 assault rifle, she said when she heard about the allegations she thought, “What does an M-4 look like? She went on to say that she saw an M-4 for the first time when it was produced in the court a couple of days ago as the weapon she allegedly used.

Ms. Siddiqui told the jury it was absurd to think an American soldier would carelessly leave his weapon in a place where a suspect like her could grab it. “It’s too crazy. It’s just ridiculous,” Siddiqui said, adjusting her white scarf. “I didn’t do that.”

Prosecutor Jenna Dabbs then asked about her purse which FBI claimed contained chemicals, a list of terror targets in New York City, instructions on how to make a dirty bomb and drawings of weapons.
Ms. Sidddiqui denied to Ms. Dabbs having any knowledge of the bag’s contents. “I can’t testify to that, the bag was not mine, so I didn’t necessarily go through everything,” she said.

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