US jails neuroscientist for 86 years
Friday 24 September 2010
Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist convicted of attempting to kill US military personnel, has been sentenced to 86 years in prison by a US judge. Siddiqui was being interrogated by US officials in Afghanistan when she grabbed a rifle and opened fire, shouting "death to Americans".
Prosecutors in New York said she was an al-Qa'ida sympathiser and called for life imprisonment. She was convicted in February, triggering protests in Pakistan where she is widely believed to be innocent. Her family have claimed that she was "disappeared" and taken to Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan.
Prosecutors used notes she was carrying at the time of her arrest, which included instructions for making explosives and a list of New York landmarks, as evidence that she was a potentially dangerous terrorist. She was also carrying sodium cyanide, a toxic substance.
Siddiqui's lawyers argued that she was mentally ill. She studied at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology before marrying a relative of accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and returning to Pakistan.
Before being sentenced, the mother-of-three released a statement denying she had been tortured in US custody. "This is a myth and a lie and it is being spread among the Muslims... I really want to make peace and end the wars," she said.
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