Sept. 24: A Pakistani neuroscientist who was convicted of trying to kill American soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan was sentenced to 86 years in prison yesterday in a Manhattan federal district court.
The case of the scientist, Aafia Siddiqui, 38, had attracted wide attention, particularly in Pakistan, where she was widely portrayed as a heroine.
In Karachi, Peshawar and Lahore, word of the sentence prompted protests from religious parties, which announced plans for nationwide demonstrations. Outside Siddiquis house in Karachi, dozens of protesters chanted anti-American slogans.
Siddiquis lawyers had requested a sentence of 12 years; federal prosecutors had pressed for life imprisonment.
The judge, Richard M. Berman, said significant incarceration was called for, and he expressed concern about the likelihood of recidivism and difficulty of rehabilitation for the defendant.
In 2004, she was described by Robert S. Mueller III, the FBI director, as an al Qaida operative and facilitator. And an indictment charged that when she was arrested in 2008, she was carrying instructions on making explosives.
But it was her assault on a team of American officers and agents who went to question her after her arrest that led to her conviction in February on charges that included attempting to kill American officers and employees.
She had been taken into custody in Ghazni, Afghanistan, after the local authorities became suspicious of her loitering outside the provincial governors compound.
In his finding that Siddiqui acted with premeditation, Judge Berman cited the testimony of witnesses who said she had picked up an M-4 rifle that one officer had placed on the ground and had begun firing at the Americans.
As she did this, the judge said, she uttered, in the same impeccable English that she has demonstrated here in the courtroom, anti-American sentiments like I want to kill Americans and Death to America. Siddiqui missed her targets, Judge Berman noted, and one officer shot her in the abdomen, while Ahmed Gul, whom the judge described as a brave Afghan interpreter charged at Siddiqui and helped restrain her.