By Masood Haider
NEW YORK: Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani neuroscientist accused of trying to kill American soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan, has been found competent to stand trial by a federal judge in Manhattan.
In a 36-page decision issued on Wednesday Judge Richard M. Berman of the United States District Court said Ms Siddiqui “had a rational as well as a factual understanding of the proceedings against her” and could assist her lawyers with her defence. He set a trial date of Oct 19. Ms Siddiqui’s lawyer Dawn Cardi was not available for comments.
In a previous hearing earlier this month, medical experts differed in their assessment of Ms Siddiqui. They were at odds over whether or not Ms Siddiqui was faking symptoms of mental illness – as prosecutors maintained – or had a genuine mental disorder as her lawyer argued.
In the last hearing, Ms Siddiqui repeatedly interrupted the hearing with a series of disjointed outbursts, denying that she had shot anyone and declaring at one point: “I want to make peace with the United States of America. I’m not an enemy. I never was.”
Ms Siddiqui was taken into custody in Afghanistan last summer after she was found roaming around with suspicious items in her handbag.
The US district attorney charged that while Ms Siddiqui was being held, she picked up an unsecured rifle, and fired at least two shots towards a member of an American team of FBI agents and military personnel who were about to question her. No one was hit.