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Federal jury convicts Pakistani woman of attempted murder of US personnel

[JURIST] A jury in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] on Wednesday convicted Aafia Siddiqui [JURIST news archive], a Pakistani woman with alleged ties to al Qaeda, on charges of attempting to murder US personnel at the Afghan facility where she was being held. Prosecutors claimed [indictment, PDF] that while in US custody in Afghanistan, Siddiqui lunged for and grabbed an unsecured M-4 rifle and opened fire on her captors. US personnel returned fire, injuring Siddiqui. Siddiqui denies both handling the weapon and attacking the personnel. In addition to two counts of attempted murder [AP report], the jury found Siddiqui guilty of armed assault against US officers and employees, using and carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, and assault against US officers and employees. The jury found that the attempted murders were not premeditated. Neither Siddiqui nor her lawyers have announced whether they will appeal the verdict. Sentencing is scheduled for May 6.

Siddiqui had to be removed from court [JURIST report] when her trial began last month because she began screaming and protesting her innocence as the trial opened. Siddiqui underwent a psychiatric evaluation and was judged fit to stand trial [JURIST report] in July. Siddiqui, who was extradited to the US in August of 2008, was shot in the abdomen during the July skirmish leading to her charges. She has since refused proper medical care as well as communication with her legal counsel. Siddiqui's family has insisted that she is not an al Qaeda agent and that the FBI has publicized misleading information about her. They say that Siddiqui, a former student at Brandeis University and MIT in Boston, may have been a victim of extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive] after she vanished from Karachi, Pakistan in 2003. Defense lawyers have alleged that Siddiqui may have been wrongly detained and tortured [Washington Post report] at Bagram air base in Afghanistan. Siddiqui was taken into custody in July 2008 after she was found loitering outside a provincial governor's compound with suspicious items in her handbag.

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