Posted by: Rehan Today | January 20, 2010

US formally charges Aafia

NEW YORK: The United States formally charged Dr Aafia Siddiqui on Tuesday with trying to kill a group of US soldiers and FBI agents at an Afghan police compound in July 2008 with a rifle she had snatched from a soldier.

Dr Aafia’s lawyer, however, rejected the charge, saying that there’s no evidence to support the claim.

Assistant US Attorney Jenna M. Dabbs told a court here that Dr Aafia, who had been taken into custody by authorities in Afghanistan in July 2008, took an army soldier’s M-4 assault rifle, which he had placed on the floor of a second-floor office at the Afghan police compound; burst from behind a curtain in the office; and attempted to shoot the assembled agents and soldiers.

However, Charles D. Swift, Dr Aafia’s lawyer, said that there’s no evidence that she ever touched or fired the M-4 rifle. In his opening statement, Mr Swift said that the soldiers had given different versions of where she was when the M-4 was allegedly fired and how many shots were fired.

Mr Swift said a bullet and shell casings from the 9mm handgun were found in the room, but no bullets or bullet fragments from the M-4 were found in the room.

He also said there was no gunpowder residue consistent with the firing of a M-4 found on the curtain in the room. “When it comes to the M-4, you’re not going to have any physical evidence that it was fired in that room,” Mr Swift said.

In her opening statement, the prosecutor described the scene inside the interrogation room where Dr Aafia allegedly tried to snatch a rifle from the soldier and was shot and wounded in the process as chaotic but admitted that the FBI didn’t return to examine the room until six days after the incident.

“This is a straightforward case,” Ms Dabbs claimed. “The defendant saw an opportunity and she acted on it. The defendant picked up that assault rifle, saw agents and soldiers and tried to kill them.”

Dr Aafia, 37, is on trial on US District Court in Manhattan on a seven-count indictment that includes charges of attempted murder, armed assault on US officers and employees and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence. She faces up to 20 years in prison on the attempted murder charges and life in prison on the firearms charge.

Dr Aafia, who was wearing a white headscarf over tan prison garb on Tuesday, has denied wrongdoing. However, she has said she doesn’t recognise the legitimacy of the proceedings and refused at times to appear in court for proceedings.

“I’m being forced to come,” Dr Aafia said outside the presence of the jury on Tuesday. “I would rather stay in my prison cell.”

Aafia yells at jurors

Aafia Siddiqui yelled at jurors during the first day of her trial, saying she had been held in a secret prison.

She had to be led out of the courtroom after disrupting the testimony of one of the witnesses.

Assistant US Attorney Jenna Dabbs told jurors Ms Siddiqui was taken into custody by Afghan police in July because she was carrying containers of unidentified chemicals and notes referring to mass-casualty attacks and New York landmarks such as the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street and the Brooklyn Bridge.


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