Sep 23 2010
A U.S.-trained Pakistani scientist convicted of trying to kill U.S. agents and military officers in Afghanistan was sentenced to 86 years in prison today.
AFP A US federal court Thursday sentenced a Pakistani woman scientist to 86 years in prison for the attempted murder of US officers in Afghanistan, in a high-profile case closely watched in Islamabad.
“It is my judgement that Dr Siddiqui is sentenced to a period of incarceration of 86 years,” judge Richard Berman told Thursday’s hearing. As the sentence was read out, a woman among about a dozen Siddiqui supporters in court yelled: “Shame, shame on this court!”
But Siddiqui repeatedly pleaded with Muslims to take her sentencing calmly. “Forgive everybody in my case, please…. And also forgive Judge Berman,” she said, as her legal team said an appeal would be lodged.
Siddiqui, a mother of three, was found guilty of grabbing a rifle at an Afghan police station in the town of Ghazni where she was being interrogated in July 2008 and trying to gun down a group of US servicemen.
Prosecutors said she had picked up the rifle and opened fire on US servicemen and FBI representatives trying to take her into detention. She missed and in a struggle was herself shot by one of the US soldiers.
Siddiqui, her face wrapped in an ivory-white shawl, denied shooting at US officers and said in rambling court commentaries that she had been held in secret prisons for years and tortured at the Bagram US military base near Kabul, where she was “brainwashed.”
A frail-looking woman who excelled in her US studies, Siddiqui featured on a 2004 US list of people suspected of Al-Qaeda links. And protests erupted in Pakistan in February when Siddiqui was found guilty by the New York court.
Family members and some human rights groups claimed Siddiqui was imprisoned by US forces after disappearing along with her three children in Pakistan in 2003 and that she is now mentally disturbed. Her lawyers tried to prove Siddiqui, who reported disturbing hallucinations involving her missing children, was insane. However, a judge ruled her fit to stand trial.
Although she was not charged with terrorism, prosecutors described her as a would-be terrorist who had also plotted to bomb New York.
And the trial failed to shed light on the mystery of what had happened to the petite, academically brilliant mother of three. Human rights groups have long speculated she may have been secretly imprisoned and tortured at the US base in Bagram, Afghanistan. But the US military has denied she was ever held at the base.