U.S. News

Pakistani convicted in NY of Afghanistan shooting

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Pakistani woman was found guilty in a New York court on Wednesday of shooting at her U.S. interrogators in Afghanistan.

Aafia Siddiqui, 37, grabbed a U.S. warrant officer’s rifle while she was detained for questioning in July 2008 in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province and fired at FBI agents and military personnel as she was wrestled to the ground.

None of the U.S. agents or personnel were injured, but Siddiqui, who the U.S. government has accused of links with al Qaeda, was shot.

The 12-member jury deliberated for two days before reaching a unanimous verdict on seven counts, including attempted murder and assault. Though guilty on two attempted murder counts, the jury said the crime was not premeditated.

She faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The Embassy of Pakistan in Washington said it was “dismayed over the unexpected verdict” after making “intense diplomatic and legal efforts” on Siddiqui’s behalf.

“The government will do all that is needed to provide justice to her as a Pakistani citizen,” the embassy said in a statement.

Siddiqui -- a tiny, frail woman -- wore a beige tunic and white headscarf covering her mouth and forehead, and showed no emotion as the jury pronounced its verdict.

But as the jury exited the court room, Siddiqui yelled: “This is a verdict coming from Israel, not America. Your anger should be directed where it belongs, I can testify to this and I have proof.”

Throughout the two-week trial, she interrupted witness testimony repeatedly and was removed from the courtroom.

Siddiqui was arrested by Afghan police, who said she was carrying containers of chemicals and notes referring to mass-casualty attacks and New York landmarks.

She was not charged in connection with those materials and the charges she was convicted of do not mention terrorism. Instead, the case centered on an incident that occurred the day after she was arrested in the Afghan police compound, where U.S. soldiers and FBI agents sought to question Siddiqui.

“She saw her chance to kill Americans and she took it,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher LaVigne told jurors. “Not only did she have the motive and intent to harm the United States, she had the know-how to do it.”

Siddiqui’s defense attacked the government’s version of events, saying there was no forensic evidence to support it.

Siddiqui’s defense attorney, Linda Moreno, said there was no evidence the rifle had ever been fired, since no bullets, shell casings or bullet debris were recovered and no bullet holes detected.

Moreno also said the testimony of the government’s six eyewitnesses contradicted one another on Siddiqui’s location in the 300-square-foot (28-square-meter) room, the number of bullets fired and who was present.

“The government has cast Aafia Siddiqui as some sort of Rambo type,” Moreno said. “Let’s leave behind the fear and talk about what the evidence tells us.”

Additional reporting by Sue Pleming, editing by Michelle Nichols