Pakistani neuroscientist boycots US trial over 'injustice'

The trial of Siddiqui, a U.S.-trained neuroscientist, began with her announcement to potential jurors she would boycott the case.

Pakistani neuroscientist boycots US trial over 'injustice'

The trial of Aafia Siddiqui, a U.S.-trained neuroscientist, began on Wednesday with her announcement to potential jurors she would boycott the case.

"I'm out of this," Siddiqui, 37, told about 100 potential jurors as lawyers in the case began selecting a jury at Manhattan federal court. "I'm boycotting the trial, just to let you know. There's too many injustices."

Siddiqui, a Pakistani national, is charged with grabbing a U.S. warrant officer's rifle in mid-2008 while she was detained for questioning in Afghanistan's Ghazni province and firing it at FBI agents and military personnel. None of them were hit.

Prosecutors say she was arrested and brought to U.S. authorities by Afghan national police after showing suspicious behavior. She was shot and wounded in response, according the U.S. version of events.

A senior Afghan officer has said she was shot by U.S. forces who took her for a suicide bomber.

But human rights groups and Siddiqui's previous lawyers said that she was secretly held at Bagram air base in Afghanistan during the time leading up to the incident, when her whereabouts were unknown.

Family members in Pakistan have said that she was raped and tortured at Bagram. Parliamentarians from Pakistan who have visited Siddiqui have called for her to be repatriated to Pakistan.

Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani met with Siddiqui's sister at the prime minister's residence last month. He assured her that Pakistan would seek here release from U.S. detention and had approved $2 million for her defense, Pakistani media reported.

On Wednesday, before jurors were present, Siddiqui told U.S. District Judge Richard Berman she would not cooperate with her attorneys and repeatedly denounced the proceeding.

She told Berman she would offer her side "whenever God wills, but not in this courtroom... There's too much lies and hypocrisy here."

Throughout most of the proceeding, Siddiqui, who wore a white scarf fashioned into a veil over brown prison clothing, sat with her head on the defense table.

According to her U.S. indictment, items found in Siddiqui's handbag at the time of her arrest included notes on making explosives and chemical weapons as well as descriptions of a "mass casualty attack" listing various New York landmarks.

While the U.S. government has previously linked Siddiqui to al Qaeda, the charges against her do not mention the group, and prosecutors told the court on Wednesday no witnesses would testify that Siddiqui was "a terrorist or that she has an affiliation with al Qaeda."

Siddiqui is charged with attempted murder, assault and other charges related to the incident. If convicted, she faces life in prison.

Opening arguments are scheduled to begin Jan. 19.

Reuters
Last Mod: 14 Ocak 2010, 08:15
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