A federal court in Manhattan on Thursday sentenced Dr Aafia Siddiqui to 86 years of imprisonment for the attempted murder of US officers in Afghanistan.
“It is my judgment that Dr Siddiqui is sentenced to a period of incarceration of 86 years,” said Judge Richard Berman.
Siddiqui, 38, denounced the trial and said an appeal would be “a waste of time. I appeal to God.”
A jury found Siddiqui guilty in February of trying to kill US agents and military officers, after she was detained in 2008 by the Afghan police.
During Siddiqui’s three-week trial, FBI agents and US soldiers testified that when they went to interrogate Siddiqui, she snatched an unattended assault rifle. They claimed that the neuroscientist allegedly shot at them after abusing America.
Siddiqui was arrested in July 2008 by the Afghan police, who said she was carrying containers of chemicals and notes referring to mass-casualty attacks and New York landmarks.
According to a news agency, during the hearings Siddiqui called on Muslims to resist using violence and said she loves American soldiers.
“Don’t get angry,” Siddiqui said in court to her supporters after the sentence was announced. “Forgive Judge Berman.”
Berman responded, saying: “I wish more defendants would feel the way that you do.”
Prosecutors said Siddiqui is a cold-blooded radical who deserves life in prison. “Her conduct was not senseless or thoughtless,” prosecutors wrote. “It was deliberate and premeditated. Siddiqui should be punished accordingly.”
The defence had asked the judge for a sentence closer to 12 years behind bars. Her lawyers argued in court papers that their client’s outburst inside a cramped Afghan outpost was a spontaneous “freak out,” born of mental illness not militancy.
“I do not want any bloodshed. I do not want any misunderstanding. I really want to make peace and end the wars,” Siddiqui said.
Siddiqui said she was particularly upset by overseas reports that she was being tortured in a US prison and added that she was actually being treated well.
“I am not sad. I am not distressed. They are not torturing me,” she said. “This is a myth and lie and its being spread among the Muslims.”
However, Siddiqui’s sister, Dr Fauzia said that Aafia was being forced to make incorrect statements and added that it was evident (in published photographs) that she had been tortured.
During a press conference soon after the verdict was announced, Dr Fauzia vowed that Siddiqui will be brought back, and that from this day onwards “Aafia Movement” will begin. “Mark my words, Aafia will come back. This is not her defeat, this is her victory,” she said.
“We had no better expectations from this Judge. Anything less than a hundred (years) would be clemency on his part.
Fauzia, along with her mother, slammed the government for failing to fulfil their promises to bring Siddiqui back. “Keep increasing the sentence, make it a century or over. This is not a punishment for Aafia, it is a slap on the face of our rulers who were responsible for bringing her back.
“The previous government sold her once; this government has sold her again and again.”
She went on to say that the judgment has proved to the whole world that the justice system that America prides itself on, no longer exists.
Earlier in Karachi on Thursday, about 400 activists of the Jamaat-e-Islami and its allied youth group, Pasban, gathered outside the Karachi Press Club carrying pictures of Siddiqui and chanting slogans against the US govt and justice system.
“Free Aafia,” “We want Aafia, not dollars!” the activists chanted, a reference to US aid funds.
(Additional input from news desk)
Published in The Express Tribune, September 24th, 2010.