Reputed al-Qaida Supporter Rants at Opening Day of Trial

By Alice McQuillan
|  Tuesday, Jan 19, 2010  |  Updated 11:59 AM EDT
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Reputed al-Qaida Supporter Rants at Opening Day of Trial

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This undated FBI handout photo shows Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman who at one time studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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The MIT-trained neuroscientist charged with trying to kill Americans in Afghanistan ranted and raved on the opening day of her trial.

Aafia Siddiqui, a 37-year-old Pakistani woman, interrupted the first witness in her trial, saying, "You've to give me some credit. I never was planning to bomb it. You're lying," she said, before being hustled out of the courtroom.

Siddiqui was disputing the testimony of a U.S. Army captain that said she was carrying documents describing the making of dirty bombs and listing New York City targets, including the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Siddiqui, the MIT- and Brandeis-trained neuroscientist, has been interrupting the proceedings, saying she wants to boycott the trial. Peering out from a white headdress and veil that covered her face except for her flashing dark eyes, she kept up a stream of outbursts before the jury arrived.

Turning to the spectators in the crowded courtroom, she said, "The President has to talk to me and this is the last opportunity I have once I'm sentenced … God, it's important, and please don't ignore me for the sake of God and this beautiful country."

She also denied that she was anti-Semitic, although several days ago during jury selection she requested that Jewish people be excluded from the panel.

She said that she was misunderstood, saying that, "It's just blame and label, blame and label."

In opening statements, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jenna Dabbs described how Siddiqui grabbed an unsecured rifle and fired at FBI agents and U.S. soldiers who had come to question her at a police compound in Ghazni, Afghanistan, on July 18, 2008.

"Get out of here," Dabbs quoted Siddiqui as saying as she leveled the weapon at the Americans and got off two shots. They weren't hurt, however Siddiqui was shot in the abdomen by one of the Americans. Struggling after she was wounded, Dabbs quoted her as saying, "I hate Americans. You will die by my blood and death to America."

Dabbs admitted that Siddiqui's fingerprints were not found on the rifle, but they were on several incriminating documents that she was carrying outlining a biological or chemical attack against the United States.

Defense attorney Charles Swift cautioned jurors that there is no forensic evidence that the M-4 rifle was fired in the interrogation room.

"You're not going to find any physical evidence that it was fired in that room," he said. "None."
 
The first witness, U.S. Army Capt. Robert Snyder, told the hushed courtroom, "I was almost killed, almost shot," he said, describing his brush with Siddiqui.

It was as he was describing the documents she was allegedly carrying that she stood up and interrupted the proceedings. 

Authorities have accused her of fleeing to her native Pakistan in 2003. They say she married an al-Qaida operative related to admitted 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed.

Although they could end up on trial in the same courthouse, and even perhaps be held in the same prison, experts said the husband and wife would not be allowed to see one another.  A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara declined to comment on the connection.   

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