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US jury considers Pakistani neuroscientist charge

Aafia Siddiqui
Aafia Siddiqui alleges she was tortured in a "secret prison" in Afghanistan

Prosecutors have said a Pakistani woman accused of shooting at US agents was determined to kill them, in the closing arguments of her trial in New York.

The jury has now retired to consider a charge of attempted murder against 37-year-old neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui.

She is alleged to have used a rifle to shoot at US agents while waiting to be questioned in Afghanistan.

Her defence team claims that there is no forensic evidence the rifle alleged to have been used was ever fired.

None of the US soldiers or agents in the room was injured in the incident, but Ms Siddiqui herself was shot.

She maintains she is innocent.

"She saw her chance to kill Americans and she took it," Assistant US Attorney Christopher La Vigne told jurors in New York on Monday.

"Not only did she have the motive and intent to harm the United States, she had the know-how to do it," he said.

The prosecutor called her a liar, adding that Ms Siddiqui was "no shrinking violet".

But Ms Siddiqui's defence lawyer, Linda Moreno, said the forensic evidence was weak: no bullets, shell casings or bullet debris were recovered from the scene.

She also said that the government's eye-witnesses contradicted each other in their testimony, the Reuters news agency reported.

"Let's leave behind the fear and talk about what the evidence tells us," Ms Moreno said.

'Secret prison'

Ms Siddiqui was taken into custody by Afghan police in July 2008 on suspicion of carrying containers of unidentified chemicals and notes referring to "mass-casualty attacks" in New York.

She was not charged in connection with possessing hazardous materials or plotting terrorist attacks, but only over the alleged shooting incident.

The trial heard evidence from US Army Capt Robert Snyder, who said that an unnamed soldier created a deadly risk by not securing his weapon at an Afghan police outpost on 18 July 2008.

Prosecutors allege that while being detained at that outpost, Ms Siddiqui grabbed the weapon and fired it.

As her trial opened on 20 January, Ms Siddiqui interrupted proceedings to shout at the jury that while in Afghanistan she had been held in a "secret prison... where children were tortured".



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