Aafia Siddiqui, Accused Terrorist, Tossed from Courtroom
By Nicole Bode and Mariel S. Clark
MANHATTAN FEDERAL COURT — A female neuroscientist accused of terrorism and a wild shootout with U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan was tossed from a federal courtroom Tuesday after she interrupted a witness during opening arguments.
"Give me a little credit. This is no list of targets against New York," Aafia Siddiqui, 37, yelled to the courtroom. "I never was planning to bomb it. You are lying."
Siddiqui, who was educated at MIT, is charged with seven felony counts, including attempted murder and armed assault, after prosecutors said she tried to shoot a group of soldiers and federal agents in Afghanistan. Authorities had detained her after she was allegedly found with documents referencing "mass casualty attacks" against U.S. and New York City targets.
For the first part of opening statements Tuesday, Siddiqui, wearing a cream-colored hijaab, kept her head down on a table in the crowded courtroom.
But when U.S. Army Capt. Robert Snyder, a witness for the prosecution, testified, she broke into a non-sensical monologue.
"Since I'll never get a chance to speak, if you are at a secret prison where children were tortured…given a magazine to copy from," Siddiqui said.
Judge Richard Berman ordered Siddiqui be removed from the courtroom.
Siddiqui was allegedly found in Afghanistan in July 2008, with documents in many languages, including English, which referred to "mass casualty attacks" against New York City targets including the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Wall Street and Brooklyn Bridge, according to U.S. Attorneys.
She also carried diagrams of the supposed targets, descriptions of chemical and biological weapons and a vial of chemicals, prosecutors said.
"On the document it says, 'Dirty bombs. Need 30 ounces of radioactive material. Wrap cobalt 60 around a bomb. Shower a city. Deadly fallout," Capt. Snyder testified Tuesday.
After authorities discovered the documents, Siddiqui was taken to a military headquarters in Afghanistan to be questioned, according to prosecutors. She was held in an office, which was separated by a curtain. When the group of soldiers and federal agents arrived to question her they did not realize she was on the other side of the curtain, and one soldier set his M-4 assault rifle on the floor, prosecutors said.
Siddiqui allegedly grabbed the rifle and pointed it at the group firing twice, according to prosecutors. The officer who initially set down his rifle grabbed his 9mm pistol and shot Siddiqui in the abdomen, prosecutors said.
"As she struggled, the defendant shouted, 'I hate Americans. You will die by my blood.' And, 'I hate America,' " said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jenna Dabbs.
Siddiqui's defense attorney Charles Swift argued there were "divergent versions of the story" from the dozen people in the headquarters room.
"This case is going to come down to a single question, 'Does the evidence prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Aafia Siddiqui gained control of an assault rifle and fired?'" Swift said.
Swift argued there were plenty of 9mm cartridges in the room but none from the M-4 rifle Siddiqui allegedly shot.
Prosecutors did not recover Siddiqui's prints from the rifle.