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Siddiqui Denies Firing Weapon at American Troops in Afghanistan

  • Larry Freund

Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistan-born scientist accused of trying to kill American troops and federal agents in Afghanistan, denied in court in New York that she picked up a military rifle and fired at the Americans.

There had been uncertainty until just shortly before she took the witness stand whether Aafia Saddiqui would actually testify before the jury. But presiding judge Richard Berman ruled that she was entitled to testify in her own defense and, answering her attorney's question - whether she had ever fired the military rifle at the Americans - she said "this is the biggest joke, of course not."

Siddiqui had been detained in Afghanistan in July 2008 as a suspected al-Qaida supporter. U.S. prosecutors say that while she was being held for questioning in an Afghan police station, she grabbed an American soldier's rifle and fired at a group of American troops and FBI agents in the room. Prosecutors say an American soldier in the room fired back at Siddiqi with a pistol, wounding her.

In her testimony, Siddiqui told the jurors that she had been standing alone, behind a curtain in the room, when she moved toward the curtain, to see if there was a way to leave. At that point, she said, she was shot by two Americans. In answer to a prosecutor's question, she said "I never attempted murder. It's a heavy word. No way."

Siddiqui's own lawyers - provided by both Pakistan and the United States - tried to prevent her from testifying, arguing that she suffers from mental illness and could hurt her own case. However, the judge said that there is a requirement for an open, fair and transparent trial and that he was determined to allow her to testify.

In answer to a prosecutor's questions, Siddiqui denied that she had told FBI agents in an American military hospital in Afghanistan that she had picked up a rifle. She testified that she was unfamiliar with weapons and said she had not received training at a pistol club in Massachusetts while she was attending college in the United States. She said she was afraid while recovering in the military hospital that she would be returned to what she called a secret prison run by what she termed fake Americans.

Further witnesses are expected to testify in the trial, now in its second week, before lawyers present their summations and the case goes to the jury.

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