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Pakistani female scientist guilty of US murder attempt

Courtroom sketch of the trial of Aafia Siddiqui - 3 February 2010
Siddiqui maintained the charges against her were fabricated

A US court has found a female Pakistani scientist guilty of attempting to murder US agents while she was detained for questioning in Afghanistan.

The prosecution said Aafia Siddiqui, a US-trained neuroscientist, picked up an army rifle and shot at the US agents.

None of the Americans was injured but Siddiqui, 37, was shot.

She denied the charges, as well as claims she had links to the al-Qaeda leadership. Rights groups say she has spent five years in secret US jails.

Siddiqui was arrested by Afghan police in July 2008 on suspicion of carrying chemicals and notes referring to "mass-casualty attacks" in New York.

The attempted murder was found not to have been premeditated.

Courtroom outbursts

The jury in Manhattan found her guilty of attempted murder, armed assault and using and carrying a firearm. She faces a maximum term of life in prison. Sentencing is due on 6 May.

After the verdict was delivered, Siddiqui shouted to the court: "This is a verdict coming from Israel, not America."

She had argued that she would not get a fair trial if there were Jewish people on the jury.

Her two-week trial was marked by other outbursts from the defendant which got her expelled from the courtroom.

Prosecutors said she was carrying bomb-making instructions and a list of targets including New York's Statue of Liberty when she was arrested.

She was not tried on terrorism charges, however.

FBI agents and US military personnel testified that as they prepared to question Siddiqui at an Afghan police station on 18 July 2008, she picked up an unattended weapon and began shooting.

The Americans said she had shouted "Death to Americans" and "God is great" in Arabic.

The Americans returned fire, wounding her, and she was brought to the US to face charges of attempted murder once she had recovered.

'Secret prison'

Siddiqui said she had been shot after looking out from behind a curtain for an escape from the police station.

She maintained her innocence throughout the trial. Her defence team claimed there was no forensic evidence the rifle alleged to have been used was ever fired.

Her lawyer, Linda Moreno, also said the government's witnesses gave contradictory evidence about where Siddiqui was in the room during the altercation, the number of shots fired and how many people were present.

During her testimony, Siddiqui claimed to have been held in a "secret prison... where children were tortured", before her arrest in Afghanistan.

The comments relate to her mysterious disappearance between 2003, after she had returned from the US to Pakistan, and her arrest in Afghanistan in 2008.

She was divorced in 2002 and was said to have then married the nephew of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, which her family deny.

US and Pakistani officials denied having anything to do with her disappearance.



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Mystery of Siddiqui disappearance
06 Aug 08 |  South Asia
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US al-Qaeda plot suspects
27 May 04 |  Americas



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