Pak scientist Aafia loses appeal on shooting conviction, 86-yr imprisonment in U.S.

Islamabad, Nov. 6 (ANI): An American court has upheld the conviction and 86-year prison sentence of Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui for shooting at FBI agents and soldiers after her arrest in Afghanistan.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said a lower court judge had not erred in allowing 40-year-old Siddiqui to testify in her own defence at trial and in allowing certain evidence against her, reports The Dawn.

Siddiqui, whose conviction was widely criticized in Pakistan, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in September 2010. A New York federal jury convicted her of attempted murder, armed assault and other charges.

She was arrested in July 2008 by Afghan police, who said she was carrying 900 grams of sodium cyanide and crumpled notes referring to mass casualty attacks and New York landmarks.

The day after her arrest, she grabbed an M-4 rifle in her interrogation room and started shooting while yelling "death to America". No one was hit, but Siddiqui was shot and wounded in response, according to U.S. prosecutors.

Siddiqui's defense lawyers, three of whom were paid by the Pakistani government, argued that their client had shot at the U.S. officials in a panic and said the crime lacked any connection to terrorism.

On appeal, her attorneys challenged her conviction and sentence, saying the judge improperly allowed jurors to consider the crumpled notes, and that the judge should never have allowed Siddiqui to decide whether to take the stand.

"The district court went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that Siddiqui understood the implications of testifying and had the capacity to testify," the opinion said.

The appeals court also sided with Berman in finding that Siddiqui had likely premeditated the attack, and that terrorism sentencing requirements were applicable because of her willingness to harm Americans. (ANI)