Speaking publicly for the first time since she was captured in Afghanistan last July and extradited to New York in August, terrorism suspect Aafia Siddiqui denied shooting an American soldier at her mental competency hearing in a New York courtroom today, where she alternated between outbursts, rambling, and moments of resignation with her head down on the table in front of her.
"I can assure you I am not psychotic," said the MIT-trained scientist, dressed in mismatched green and tan-colored prison garb and covered in a full hijab so that only her eyes were visible. Siddiqui, who speaks fluent English, also told the court, "I didn't shoot anybody" and "I did not fire no [sic] bullets."
Her attorneys argue that Siddiqui has a mental disorder and is incompetent to be on trial, while prosecutors maintain that any signs of mental illness are all just an act.
Today's hearing previewed some issues that had been previously under seal and may be presented as evidence in an eventual trial. In the government's indictment, Siddiqui was said to have been arrested in Afghanistan with a bag filled with terror plots and musings.
The alleged Al Qaeda operative is facing charges of attempted murder and other charges following a shootout with security personnel last summer. According to the indictment in the case, Siddiqui fired at least two shots at a soldier who was part of the FBI team that was questioning her. She has pleaded not guilty.
According to the indictment, Siddiqui's notes contained the details of casualty rates for various weapons of mass destruction. Her handwritten notes, the indictment stated, "referred to the construction of 'dirty bombs' chemical and biological weapons, and other explosives."
The defense witness, Dr. L. Thomas Kucharski, however, testified that some of the written materials found in her possession revealed a delusional woman. Kucharski noted that her notes also described viruses that could only hurt adults and not children, others that would kill only certain ethnic groups, and a plot to infect U.S. poultry supply with an antibody that made the animals resistant to salmonella, and thereby sicken Americans who consumed chickens. For a woman with a degree from MIT and a PhD in neuroscience, Kucharski testified, these theories and fantasies were not the product of a healthy mind.
The day after her arrest by Afghani authorities on July 17, Siddiqui was shot twice in the torso, U.S. officials said, when she grabbed a U.S. soldier's M-4 carbine and attempted to shoot another officer as a team of US soldiers and FBI agents prepared to question her. A U.S. interpreter threw off her aim when he pushed the gun, authorities said, and she then was shot twice with a .9 millimeter handgun. According to the U.S. Government, despite her wounds, she shouted that she "wanted to kill Americans," and struggled with her captors before they subdued her.
She was wanted by the FBI as far back as 2004 for her alleged connections to Al Qaeda. According to the indictment, when Siddiqui was detained by Afghan National Police, she was in possession of a document which mentioned "Mass Casualty Attack" and listed various landmarks in New York, including Wall Street and the Statue of Liberty.