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Pakistanis Protest NY Court Ruling on Female Scientist


Leaders in Pakistan and political activists are agitating against a U.S. court's decision to sentence a Pakistani neuroscientist to 86 years in prison for trying to kill American security officers in Afghanistan.

Hundreds of angry protesters took to the streets in several Pakistani cities after Friday prayers to condemn the effective life term a New York court gave to the U.S-trained female Pakistani scientist, Afia Siddiqui.

Rock-throwing protesters in Karachi tried to march to the U.S. consulate but police disbursed them by firing tear gas.

Political activists and students gathered in the Pakistani capital chanted anti-U.S slogans and burned the American flag. They demanded that Afia Siddique be released and repatriated to Pakistan. The demonstrators scuffled with police while attempting to reach the U.S. embassy.

Speaking to VOA, a university student, Usman Chaudhry, weighed in: "We consider her (Afia Siddiqui) our sister and our daughter. So we really condemn the decision of the United States because her capture is totally illegal," she says, "We want her here because the trial should be free and fair."

Relatives and supporters of the female scientist also accused the Pakistani government of not doing enough to secure the release of Siddiqui.

But in a speech to the national parliament, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani rejected the allegations. As he put it, no stone had been left unturned to secure the return of the Pakistani neuroscientist.

The prime minister called Afia Siddiqui the daughter of the nation, saying he has asked his interior minister to explore whether a swap deal is possible with the United States to secure the return of the 38-year old Pakistani woman.

Afia Siddiqui was on a family visit to Pakistan with her three children in 2003 when she went missing. She was arrested in Afghanistan in mid 2008 on suspicion of having links to the al-Qaida terrorist network.

Afghan police say the woman was carrying documents on how to make bombs and use chemical weapons when she was arrested her in the town of Ghazni.

Siddiqui was found guilty of grabbing an American security officer's gun to try to shoot at FBI agents who were interrogating her at an Afghan facility. Her lawyers say they will appeal the verdict handed down by the New York court on Thursday.

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