The conviction of a Pakistani-born, U.S.-educated neuroscientist for attempting to murder her American interrogators in Afghanistan was upheld Monday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Aafia Siddiqui, 40, was convicted in 2010 of the July 18, 2008, attempted murder of U.S. nationals and several other crimes after she picked up an M-4 rifle and fired at Americans who had come to question her following her arrest by Afghan police on suspicion of attempting to attack the governor of Ghazni City, Afghanistan.
Witnesses at her trial said Saddiqui emerged from behind a curtain in a room filled with U.S. military, FBI agents and Afghan personnel and fired the weapon before being shot in the stomach and subdued. One witness reported that she shouted, "I am going to kill all you Americans. You are going to die by my blood."
Siddiqui's trial before Judge Richard Berman was preceded by an extended inquiry into her competence to face the charges amid her bizarre behavior and outbursts during pretrial hearings. Siddiqui, against the advice of her counsel that was paid for in part by the government of Pakistan, took the witness stand to testify that she never picked up or fired the weapon.
Berman sentenced Siddiqui in 2010 to 86 years in prison, a sentence that set off protests in Pakistan. Her appeal made several challenges to the judge's rulings in the case, including Berman's decision to allow admission of documents found in her possession when she was taken into custody in Ghazni City on July 17, 2008.
The documents included details on how to produce explosives, made reference to a "mass casualty attack" and listed what prosecutors argued was a list of likely terror targets, including the Empire State Building and Brooklyn Bridge.
Judges Richard Wesley, Susan Carney and Eastern District of New York Judge Roslynn Mauskopf, sitting by designation, heard oral arguments in United States v. Siddiqui, 10-3916-cr, on February 10.
Wesley wrote the panel's opinion, turning aside objections to Berman's rulings and Siddiqui's sentence.
The panel first easily rejected Siddiqui's argument that several of the statutes under which she was convicted do not apply "in an active theatre of war."
"It would be incongruous to conclude that statutes aimed at protecting United States officers and employees do not apply in areas of conflict where large numbers of officers and employees operate," Wesley said.