By Alvis Matt
The second day of Aafia Siddiqui’s trial on attempted murder charge was marked by conflicting versions given by government witnesses of the 2008 incident in Afghanistan, with an FBI expert saying on Wednesday he found no fingerprints on the rifle that she allegedly used to fire at US interrogators there.
T. J. Fife, the FBI fingerprint expert who was put on the stand by the prosecution on the second day of Ms. Siddiqui’s trial, said he used all techniques, including the top-of-the-line laser technology to search for evidence, but found nothing on the M-4 rifle, which was produced in the court.
“There were no fingerprints on the rifle, but it is difficult to obtain them from firearms,” he added.
Fife was the last of the five prosecution witnesses who testified on Wednesday. He will be cross-examined by defence lawyers on Thursday.
Throughout Wednesday’s proceedings, the lawyers for the prosecution and defence worked to focus the jurors’ attention on their stands concerning the July 18, 2008, incident in Ghazni, Afghanistan.
In his opening statement on Tuesday, Charles Swift, the defence lawyer, had said Ms. Siddiqui didn’t fire any weapon that day. Authorities were never able to find any gunpowder residue on Ms. Siddiqui or any ballistics evidence showing the rifle had been fired or that she had used it, Swift said.
The prosecution brought in the FBI fingerprint expert in an obvious attempt to take the edge off Swift’s statement because the government witness said that firearms usually do not record the impressions. The reason he gave was that firearms have rough surface that do not retain fingerprints, with heat, humidity and sweat also contributing to erasing them.
Meanwhile, a former Afghani interpreter with US Special Forces on Wednesday appeared to contradict the version of the Ghazni shooting incident given by a US Army captain on Tuesday about the position of Ms. Siddiqui while allegedly aiming the rifle. While interpreter Ahmad Gul told the court that the Pakistani neuroscientist was standing with the gun in her hand, Capt. Robert Snyder had said that she was in kneeling position.
Gul, who now holds a Green Card, lives in the United States. Responding to Defence lawyer Linda Moreno’s question, he said that the U.S. government had sponsored him in October 2008 and he got the permanent resident status in 2009. He said he was paid all expences here until he got a job in a clothing store.
Gul also had trouble in remembering what he had said in a report to the FBI five days after the incident. He had then stated that his chief warrant officer looked behind a curtain of the room in a police station where Ms. Siddiqui was supposed to be sitting. Responding to the defence attorney’s queries, Gul said his boss never look behind the curtain. Ms. Moreno then handed him the report he had signed, to which he said it was wrong.
The interpreter said he managed to disarm Ms. Siddiqui, after she was shot in the abdomen.
The neuroscientist is alleged to have grabbed the rifle after the Special Forces officer left the weapon within her reach, according to the prosecution.
The same officer used his 9mm pistol to shoot Siddiqui after she fired two shots, prosecutors said. NO one hit in the room, but Ms. Siddiqui was wounded in the abdomen.
Shortly after the Americans gathered in the room to interview Ms. Siddiqui, Gul said Capt. Snyder’s shouted: “She’s got the gun!”
Gul, claiming to be standing just three feet from Ms. Sidduqi, said he lunged at her and started wrestling for the weapon. Ms. Siddiqui fired one shot before he reached the rifle, and a second after he pushed her into a wall.
Earlier, FBI agent John Jefferson, under questioning from Ms. Moreno, the defence lawyer, said he never saw Ms. Siddiqui firing the weapon even though he was in the room. He said he thought that the shots were coming from the window.
Agent Jefferson testified that he heard an M-4 rifle — which he said is distinguished when fired because of its loud pops — fired in the room, followed by two shots of lower volume.
But on cross-examination, Ms. Moreno suggested, Jefferson’s hearing might have been impaired because he was wearing a communication device.
“But you had some devices in your ear?” Ms. Moreno asked.
“Yes,” Jefferson said.
“And they remained in your ear while you were in the room?” she said.
“Correct,” he said.
The trial of Ms. Siddiqui is taking place under heavier-than-usual security. On Wednesday, a metal detector was put in place outside the 21st-floor courtroom, in addition to the ones already on the ground floor. But Judge Berman told the court not to draw any “adverse inferences” from it.
Before the start of the trial, Ms. Siddiqui, who was wearing a white scarf, told the presiding Judge, Richard Berman, that her articles in some magazines were being distorted. While nothing positive she wrote about America was ever picked up, some of her observations were taken out of to give a negative impression of her. Indeed, she is being projected as terrorist even though she has not been accused of terrorism.
Ms. Siddiqui, who was removed from the court on Tuesday after she interrupted the proceedings, agreed not to do so again. “I’m just going to be quiet, but it doesn’t mean I agree,” she said.
Ms. Siddiqui, who on Tuesday had called a witness a liar and denied that she was a terrorist, then rested her head on a table and kept it there for much of the morning’s proceedings.
Judge Berman also told jurors that the evidence presented by the government should not be taken as a proof of Ms. Siddiqui’s alleged crime. He also told them to weigh what the prosecution witnesses say about Ms. Siddiqui while quoting Afghan officials
My children were tortured : Dr Aafia
By Alvis Matt
On Tuesday, Siddiqui was thrown out of the New York courtroom where her trail is being held after shouting the remarks at the jurors.
The MIT-educated neuroscientist is currently on trial, facing charges of trying to kill US soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan in 2008 and connections with Al-Qaeda operatives.
She was ejected from her federal court trial after her second outburst, Bloomberg reported.
“Since I’ll never get a chance to speak,” she said in the courtroom. “If you were in a secret prison, or your children were tortured…”
She insisted that she knew nothing about a plan to carry out terrorist attacks on targets in New York, The New York Daily News reported.
“Give me a little credit, this is not a list of targets of New York,” she said. “I was never planning to bomb it. You’re lying.”
Siddiqui vanished in Karachi, Pakistan with her three children on March 30, 2003. The next day it was reported in local newspapers that she had been taken into custody on terrorism charges.
US officials allege Aafia Siddiqui was seized on July 17, 2008 by Afghan security forces in Ghazni province and claim that documents, including formulas for explosives and chemical weapons, were found in her handbag.
They say that while she was being interrogated, she grabbed a US warrant officer’s M-4 rifle and fired two shots at FBI agents and military personnel but missed and that the warrant officer then fired back, hitting her in the torso.
She was brought to the United States to face charges of attempted murder and assault. Siddiqui faces 20 years in prison if convicted.
However, human rights organizations have cast doubt on the accuracy of the US account of the event.
Many political activists believe she was Prisoner 650 of the US detention facility in Bagram, Afghanistan, where they say she was tortured for five years until one day US authorities announced that they had found her in Afghanistan.