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Defense Begins Presentation in Siddiqui Trial

  • Larry Freund

In the New York trial of a Pakistani woman accused of attempting to shoot Americans in Afghanistan, a defense witness on Wednesday rejected possible evidence that Aafia Siddiqui fired an American military rifle.

In earlier testimony, the government said two holes in a wall of an Afghanistan police station were possibly the result of bullets fired by Aafia Siddiqui, after she grabbed the rifle. The U.S. government contends that after Siddiqui fired the weapon, a U.S. Army officer fired back with a pistol and wounded the Pakistani woman. None of the Americans in the Afghan police station - U.S. troops and Federal Bureau of Investigation Agents - were wounded in the incident.

William Tobin, a former FBI technician and now a private forensic metallurgist, said the two bullet holes in the room could not have been made by the high velocity bullets fired by the Army rifle allegedly used by Siddiqui.

Tobin testified as defense lawyers began to present their case to the federal jury. Previously, government witnesses said that Siddiqui had picked up the Army rifle while she was detained as a suspected al-Qaida supporter.

In testimony videotaped in Kabul, Afghanistan, an Afghan anti-terrorist police official said he was present during the July 2008 incident. He told defense and prosecution lawyers that Siddiqui had been beaten when she was detained and that he heard shots fired, but that he never saw the woman holding the gun.

Siddiqui, who has interrupted the trial during previous sessions, was not in the courtroom during this latest testimony. She has indicated her desire to testify. But in a letter to presiding Judge Richard Berman, her defense attorney urged him to bar her from testimony. Her lawyers say she is driven by an irrational and delusional belief that she can convince listeners that she can bring world peace. Her lawyers say that what they are seeking is unprecedented - the curtailment of a criminal defendant's constitutional right in order to safeguard her interest. The lawyers say Siddiqui is refusing to communicate with them.

The attorneys are being provided by the U.S. and Pakistan governments. Part of Wednesday's proceedings were observed by Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Hussain Haqqani.