Published on 27 Jul 2011 | over 5 years ago
Aafia Siddiqui (Urdu: عافیہ صدیقی; born March 2, 1972) is an American-educated Pakistani cognitive neuroscientist who was convicted of assault with intent to murder her U.S. interrogators in Afghanistan. The charges carried a maximum sentence of life in prison; in September 2010, she was sentenced by a United States district court to 86 years in prison.
Siddiqui entered the United States on a student visa in 1990. Staying for both undergraduate and graduate education, she eventually settled in Massachusetts and earned her PhD in neuroscience from Brandeis University in 2001. A devout Muslim who had engaged in Islamic charity work, Siddiqui moved back to Pakistan in 2002. She disappeared with her three young children in March 2003, shortly after the arrest in Pakistan of her second husband's uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged chief planner of the September 11 attacks. Khalid Mohammed reportedly mentioned Siddiqui's name while he was being interrogated, and shortly thereafter, she was added to the FBI Seeking Information -- War on Terrorism list. In May 2004, the FBI named Siddiqui as one of its seven Most Wanted Terrorists. Her whereabouts were reported to have been unknown for more than five years, until she was arrested in July 2008 in Afghanistan. Upon her arrest, the Afghan police said she was carrying in her purse handwritten notes and a computer thumb drive containing recipes for conventional bombs and weapons of mass destruction, instructions on how to make machines to shoot down U.S. drones, descriptions of New York City landmarks with references to a mass casualty attack, and two pounds of sodium cyanide in a glass jar.
Siddiqui was shot and severely wounded at the police compound the following day. Her American interrogators said she grabbed an unattended rifle from behind a curtain and began shooting at them. Siddiqui's own version was that she simply stood up to see who was on the other side of the curtain and startled the soldiers one of whom then shot her. She received medical attention for her wounds at Bagram Air Base and was flown to the U.S. to be charged in a New York City federal court with attempted murder, and armed assault on U.S. officers and employees. She denied the charges. After receiving psychological evaluations and therapy, the judge declared her mentally fit to stand trial. Siddiqui interrupted the trial proceedings with vocal outbursts and was ejected from the courtroom several times. The jury convicted her of all the charges in February 2010. The prosecution argued for "terrorism enhancement" of the charges that would require a life term; Siddiqui's lawyers requested a 12-year sentence, arguing that she was mentally ill. The charges against her stemmed solely from the shooting, and Siddiqui was not charged with, or prosecuted for, any terrorism-related offenses.
Amnesty International monitored the trial for fairness. Four British Parliamentarians called the trial a grave miscarriage of justice which violated the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution as well as the United States' obligations as a member of the United Nations, and demanded Siddiqui's release. In a letter to Barack Obama, they stated that there was a lack of scientific and forensic evidence tying Siddiqui to the weapon she allegedly fired. Many of Siddiqui's supporters, including some international human rights organizations, have claimed that Siddiqui was not an extremist and that she and her young children were illegally detained, interrogated and tortured by Pakistani intelligence, U.S. authorities or both during her five-year disappearance. The U.S. and Pakistan governments have denied all such claims. In recently recorded testimony, the Sindh Province Police Superintendent confirmed his personal involvement in arresting and abducting Siddiqui and her three small children in March 2003. He said that local Karachi authorities were involved, participating with Pakistani intelligence (ISI), CIA and FBI agents.
Family and early life
Siddiqui was born in Karachi, Pakistan to Muhammad Salay Siddiqui, a British-trained neurosurgeon, who is now deceased, and Ismet (née Faroochi), an Islamic teacher, social worker, and charity volunteer, who is now retired. Her mother was prominent in political and religious circles and at one time a member of Pakistan's parliament. Siddiqui is the youngest of three siblings. Her brother is an architect who lives in Texas. Her sister, Fowzia, is a Harvard-trained neurologist, who worked at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore and taught at Johns Hopkins University before she returned to Pakistan.
Siddiqui attended school in Zambia until the age of eight, and finished her primary and secondary schooling in Karachi.
 Undergraduate education