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Jury Considers Murder Charges Against Pakistani Scientist

  • Larry Freund

The U.S. government's case against Aafia Siddiqui, who is accused of attempting to murder U.S. soldiers and federal agents in Afganistan, went to the jury Monday.

The trial is now in the hands of 12 jurors, eight women and four men. Siddiqui is accused by the U.S. government of attempting to kill a group of U.S. Army troops and federal agents while she was detained in Afghanistan.

The Pakistan-born, American-educated scientist is accused of grabbing a U.S. soldier's M-4 automatic rifle, while she was in an Afghan police station in 2008 and firing twice at the Americans. The Americans say one of the group responded, shooting Siddiqui twice with a pistol.

In his closing argument, a prosecutor told the jury that to find Siddiqui not guilty, they would have to believe that all nine witnesses who testified they saw her shoot the rifle or heard the rifle fire were lying.

In testimony last week, Siddiqui denied that she fired the rifle and said she was shot as she looked from behind a curtain in the room where she was being held.

A defense attorney told members of the jury that if they do not know what happened in the room in Afghanistan where Siddiqui was shot, they must find her not guilty. The lawyer repeatedly pointed to the fact that no physical evidence was introduced in the trial showing that the rifle was fired in the room -- no bullet fragments, shell casings or bullet holes.

Before the jurors retired to begin their deliberations, presiding Judge Richard Berman spent nearly two hours instructing them on the law, explaining that the burden is on the government to prove that Siddiqui guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, that she is presumed innocent and that the jury's verdict must be unanimous.

Siddiqui was detained in Afghanistan when she was found to be carrying documents said to contain bomb-making instructions and what a prosecutor described as "a road map for destruction," about attacking the United States. Although the 37 year-old scientist chose to testify last week in her own defense, she was not present in the courtroom during the closing arguments and the judge's instructions.

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