Federal judge rules Pakistan woman alleged to be al Qaeda agent fit to stand trial

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] on Wednesday ruled [opinion, PDF] that Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman with alleged ties to al Qaeda, is mentally competent to stand trial. 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 last July. Judge Richard Berman had entered a not guilty plea and ordered a psychiatric evaluation [JURIST report] of Siddiqui in September. The prosecution had requested the psychiatric evaluation on suspicions that Siddiqui was mentally unfit to stand trial, with defense attorney Elizabeth Fink agreeing that such evaluation was appropriate. Berman set a trial date for October 19.

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. Siddiqui was taken into custody in July after she was found loitering outside a provincial governor's compound with suspicious items in her handbag.

 

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