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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Schizophrenic Terror Plotter Loses Appeal

MANHATTAN (CN) - The 2nd Circuit affirmed the effective life sentence assigned to a Pakistani neuroscientist who fired an M-4 rifle in a cell in Bagram, Afghanistan, narrowly missing U.S. officers.

Aafia Siddiqui, 40, earned a doctorate in cognitive behavior at Brandeis University long before New York City tabloids dubbed her "Lady al-Qaida."

Authorities in Afghanistan arrested Siddiqui in July 2008, saying that her handwritten notes detailed plans to attack Plum Island, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Siddiqui's defense attorneys contend that the scrawls, which describe a theoretical biological weapon that spares children, depict the mind of a mentally ill woman, not a terrorist mastermind.

Prosecutors never charged her for possessing these documents. Instead, they indicted her for grabbing a U.S. Army officer's rifle, shouting anti-American epithets and firing at her interrogators.

A federal jury convicted Siddiqui of attempted murder, firearms charges and assault on Feb. 4, 2010.

At her sentencing hearing months later, where Siddiqui was put away for 86 years, the defendant objected as her attorneys announced their plans to appeal.

Stating that their client's schizophrenia diagnosis made her incapable of handling her own case, the lawyers overrode Siddiqui's objections and appealed anyway.

The 2nd Circuit heard oral arguments two years after the conviction.

At this hearing, attorney Dawn Cardi asserted that prosecutors never should have admitted Siddiqui's "incendiary" documents of the New York City attack plans. Cardi also said the court have barred transcripts of an interrogation conducted before officers read Siddiqui her Miranda rights.

The lawyer also attacked jurisdiction of a U.S. District Court over the matter and opposed sentencing "enhancements" that the trial judge ordered for terrorism crimes.

Siddiqui was trying to escape her capture, not influence U.S. policy, Cardi argued.

A three-judge panel found otherwise, affirming Siddiqui's conviction and sentence Monday.

"While in Afghan custody prior to the shooting incident, Siddiqui referred to the United States as invaders, and when queried about the bomb-making documents found in her possession, Siddiqui indicated that the target of those bombs were 'the foreigners,'" Judge Richard Wesley wrote for the court. "What's more, shortly after firing on the American interview team, Siddiqui stated: 'I am going to kill all you Americans. You are going to die by my blood'; 'death to America'; and 'I will kill all you motherfuckers.' Taken as a whole, this evidence provides a sufficient factual basis for the district court's conclusion that Siddiqui's offense was calculated to retaliate against the United States."

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