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No terrorism charges in Aafia's indictment
 
 
 
NEW YORK - Dr Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani neuroscientist, has been indicted on federal charges that she tried to kill the American interrogators after her arrest in Afghanistan in July, but the document contained no charges of terrorism.

For weeks, US official have been indicating through leaks in the press that they have loads of information linking her to the al-Qaeda terror network, but the indictment unsealed in a US court Tuesday is confined to charges of attempted murder and assault of US agents during an interrogation session in the afghan town of Ghazni.

Meanwhile, Dr Siddiuqi's lead lawyer Elizabeth Fink said her client would plead not guilty to the charges when she is arraigned on Thursday.

Ms Fink also expressed concern that Ms Siddiqui remained in need of medical attention. "She needs further tests," Ms Fink was quoted as saying in The New York Times. "She needs treatment. She needs care.

She needs human rights. She needs to be treated in a humane fashion based on what everybody concedes happened to her. And they're not doing it."

At a press conference last week, Ms Fink expressed her outrage that even after a court-ordered medical examination, Ms Siddiqui, despite her life-threatening condition, has not been provided the recommended treatment.

"Her condition has significantly deteriorated since August four when she was brought to New York," she told reporters in a Brooklyn park, a block away from a federal prison where she is being held under harsh conditions. "She (Ms Siddiqui) should be transferred to Bellevue hospital for urgent medical and psychological treatment," the lawyer added. The authorities have said that Ms Siddiqui was taken into custody in July after being found loitering outside an Afghan police station with suspicious items and notes in her handbag.

According to the indictment, Siddiqui faces one count of attempting to kill US nationals abroad; one count of attempting to kill US officers and employees; one count of armed assault of US officers and employees; one count of using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence; and three counts of assault of US officers and employees.

"If convicted, Siddiqui faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each of the attempted murder and armed assault charges; life in prison on the firearm charge; and eight years in prison on each of the remaining assault charges," it said.

The indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in New York City on Tuesday, said her notes also mentioned Wall Street, the Brooklyn Bridge and Plum Island, site of a federal animal disease center off Long Island. Various locations in the indictment had been described in news reports last month, including one by ABC News.

The indictment does not accuse Ms Siddiqui of planning attacks on the landmarks. An unnamed government official briefed on the case was quoted as saying in a media report the landmarks were a "wish list" of potential targets but that there was no evidence of a credible plot.

The authorities have said that after she was taken into custody in an Afghan police station, she picked up an unsecured rifle and fired at least two shots toward one of the soldiers who was part of an American team of F.B.I. agents and military personnel who were about to question her. No one was hit. Another soldier returned fire with a pistol, hitting her at least twice in the abdomen. Another lawyer for Ms Siddiqui's scoffed at the indictment's claims that a 90-pound woman tried to take on and kill US officers.

"I think it's interesting that they make all these allegations about the dirty bombs and other items she supposedly had, but they haven't charged her with anything relating to terrorism," Lawyer Elaine Whitfield Sharp said. "I would urge people to consider her as innocent unless the government proves otherwise." Sharp said that in recent conversations with her client, Siddiqui said she had been held incommunicado and in custody over the last five years. "She is a mother of three who has been through several years of detention, whose interrogators were Americans, who endured treatment fairly characterized as horrendous," Sharp said. Ms Fink, Ms Siddiqui's lead lawyer, said of the narrow scope of the charges, "They kept it very tight."

The indictment also provides detail about certain documents that the authorities say were on a computer thumb drive in Ms Siddiqui's possession. It said those documents referred to "attacks" by certain "cells" and to "enemies," including the United States, and discussed recruitment and training. The notes also included references to various ways to attack enemies, the indictment said, "including by destroying reconnaissance drones, using underwater bombs, and using gliders."

Ms Siddiqui's lawyers have said they believe she had been secretly detained since March 2003, when she left her parents' home in Karachi to visit her uncle in Islamabad.
 
 
 
 
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