By Masood Haider
NEW YORK: Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui charged with helping Al Qaeda and for shooting at US law-enforcement officials in Afghanistan was brought to a New York court on Monday for a hearing to determine whether she was competent to stand trial.
Ms SiddiquiÂ’s lawyer, Dawn Cardi, told journalists that Judge Richard Berman had given permission to the prosecutors to bring her to court against her will.
Ms Siddiqui has appeared in court twice after she was brought to the US last August but has refused to attend proceedings since then. She’s charged with attempted murder and assault.
She kept her hands folded as she entered to court on Monday surrounded by US marshal’s deputies. When Judge Berman said that she was presumed innocent, she nodded her head in apparent disagreement.
Judge Berman said he would not rule on Monday on whether she is competent to stand trial, but would hear the testimony of mental health professionals who have evaluated Ms Siddiqui over the last year. A trial is set for Oct 19.
Prosecutors and the defence attorneys cited respective reports by their psychologists on Ms Siddiqui’s mental state. Ms Siddiqui, according to lawyers, has claimed she saw some of her children in her cell and seemed particularly disturbed by strip searches required before any court appearance.
The psychologists wrote in court documents put in the public court record late last week that Ms Siddiqui repeatedly stated she was dead after one strip search and that she said she was convinced video of the search was distributed on the Internet.
US prosecutors accuse Ms Siddiqui of having ties to Al Qaeda and claim that she grabbed a US Army officer’s M-4 rifle in Afghanistan, pointed it at an army captain and cried “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is greatest”. She fired at US soldiers and FBI agents before she was shot and wounded by an army officer, the prosecutors said.