Dr Afia Siddiqui vows New York trial boycott

Saturday, November 21, 2009 Daily Times

* Says she will not attend trial in the US
* Not dealing with defence lawyers anymore

NEW YORK: US-trained scientist from Pakistan, Dr Afia Siddiqui, accused of shooting at Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents and helping Al Qaeda, vowed on Thursday to boycott her January trial.

Afia interrupted lawyers at her pre trial hearing in US District Court in Manhattan to announce that she did not plan to participate in her trial, scheduled for January 19.

Not here: “I am boycotting this trial,” she said. “I am innocent of all the charges and I can prove it, but I will not do it in this court,” she added. Afia was brought to the US in August 2008 after she was accused of grabbing a US Army officer’s rifle in Afghanistan several weeks earlier and firing at US soldiers and FBI agents. She was shot in the abdomen in the fight and was charged with attempted murder and assault.

Lawyers for Siddiqui tried to convince the court that she was mentally incompetent to stand trial, citing in part her refusal to cooperate with lawyers and the reports of a psychologist who said she suffered from delusional disorder and depression.

US District Judge Richard M Berman rejected the argument after prosecutors pointed to psychological reports that concluded she was faking mental illness. Berman on Thursday rejected defence arguments aimed at tossing out charges against the 37-year-old Afia that carried a potential minimum prison sentence of 30 years and a maximum penalty of life in prison.

No more dealing: Before he ruled on the request, Afia said visits by her lawyers were “torture for me” and it was a waste of money for lawyers to go to Afghanistan to interview witnesses because she was not participating in the trial. “I’m not dealing with them anymore,” Siddiqui said of her lawyers. “They’re just people coming to my door and talking, talking and talking,” she added. ap



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