NEW YORK: A US judge on Wednesday agreed to accept a five-member lawyers’ team to defend Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui despite her vociferous and strong objections saying she wanted to represent herself.
The judge set a new trial date of Nov 2 for Ms Siddiqui, who is charged with firing on American soldiers while in custody in Kabul last year. He also agreed to appeal to the prison authorities to stop intrusive body search of Ms Siddiqui.
Judge Richard Berman also agreed to accept a three-member lawyers’ team comprising Ms Linda Moreno, Ms Elaine Sharp and Charles Swift. In the absence of any agreement with Ms Siddiqui over her lawyers’ team, the judge also retained the services of government-appointed defence lawyers Dawn Cardi and Chad Edgar.
Judge Berman set Sept 17 for a reconciliation meeting between the lawyers to discuss the status of various cases and issues concerning the case.
At the outset Judge Berman asked the lawyers team to meet Ms Siddiqui separately to seek her consent since the new team was funded by Pakistan government. But she refused to accept the team and raised her hand time and again to inform the judge that she wished to defend herself.
She also broke down and wept nearing the end of the hearing.
However, the judge agreed to Ms Siddiqui’s appeal to stop strip searches when she moves in and out of Brooklyn detention centre.
Judge Berman and the lawyers assured Ms Siddiqui that she was innocent until proven guilty as per the US law and that no terrorism charges had been levelled against her by the government.