Page last updated at 10:50 GMT, Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Terror suspect 'unfit for trial'

Aafia Siddiqui, pictured in custody
Accounts differ as to how Aafia Siddiqui ended up in American custody

A Pakistani scientist accused of having links to the al-Qaeda leadership has been deemed by US psychiatrists as mentally unfit to stand trial.

They have concluded that Aafia Siddiqui is unable to understand the nature and consequences of court proceedings and cannot assist properly in her defence.

The evaluation was performed at a medical centre in Fort Worth, Texas.

Ms Siddiqui has been charged with attempting to kill US troops sent to arrest her in Afghanistan in July.

'Secretly held'

The evaluation said that Ms Siddiqui, 36, is "not currently competent to proceed as a result of her mental disease".

US District Judge Richard M Berman has announced a conference of lawyers on Wednesday to discuss what should happen next in the case, including the possibility of medication for Ms Siddiqui's "depression".

Female activists of Sunni Muslim group Jemaah Islamiah chant slogans against the US and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf during a protest in Karachi on July 31, 2008
Demonstrations have been held in Karachi calling for Ms Siddiqui's release

She was categorised as an al-Qaeda supporter by the US government in 2004 and later was charged with attempted murder and assault.

She had allegedly used a rifle at a police station in Afghanistan in July to shoot at US army and law enforcement personnel. She too was shot and wounded.

Human rights groups say that Ms Siddiqui was missing for five years before the shooting incident and was secretly held in custody by either Pakistani or US authorities.

In 2004, the FBI described her as an "al-Qaeda operative and facilitator who posed a clear and present danger to America".

She was taken to the US in August and at the request of her lawyers was transferred to a facility which specialises in mental health treatment for women soon afterwards.

Ms Siddiqui faces 20 years in prison if convicted. Her lawyers have dismissed the charges as ridiculous.

The US say Ms Siddiqui was married to a nephew of the man accused of masterminding the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

The mother-of-three, an ex-student at the elite Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), did not enter a plea at a preliminary hearing on 5 August.

The FBI says Ms Siddiqui was apprehended on 17 July in the Afghan province of Ghazni by local security forces who allegedly found documents including recipes for explosives and chemical weapons in her handbag.

US army officers and FBI agents visited her in detention on 18 July, they say, alleging she seized a US officer's M-4 rifle from behind a screen before opening fire on the Americans.

According to her family, Ms Siddiqui has not been seen since returning to Pakistan on a visit from the US in 2003.

They say she is "innocent of any crime" and deny that she has connections to al-Qaeda.

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