US judge orders psychiatric evaluation of Pakistan woman alleged to be al Qaeda agent

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] on Tuesday entered a not guilty plea and ordered a psychiatric evaluation in the trial of Aafia Siddiqui [FBI materials], a Pakistani woman with alleged ties to al Qaeda. Siddiqui was charged [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] in August with assault and the attempted murder of a US officer after allegedly opening fire on agents at the Afghan detention facility where she was being held in July. Judge Richard Berman entered the not guilty plea on her behalf as Siddiqui did not attend her arraignment after refusing to undergo a mandatory strip search. US Attorney Michael Garcia [official profile] requested the psychiatric evaluation [Reuters report] Monday on suspicions that Siddiqui is mentally unfit to stand trial, with defense attorney Elizabeth Fink agreeing that such evaluation is appropriate. A December 17 hearing will determine Siddiqui's mental competence, with a tentative trial date set for March 9. AP has more.

Siddiqui, who was extradited to the US in August, 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.

 

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