By Masood Haider
NEW YORK: Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui took the stand on Thursday afternoon to testify in a court where she is facing the charge of trying to kill American servicemen while in custody at Ghazni (Afghanistan).
While denying the attempted murder charge, Dr Aafia told the court that she was concerned she was going to be transferred to a ‘secret’ prison by the Americans and was trying to slip out of the room when she was shot.
“I’m telling you what I know,” she said in response to a question by Assistant US Attorney Jenna M. Dabbs.
“I walked towards the curtain. I was shot and I was shot again. I fainted.” Much to the surprise of her defence team, Dr Aafia turned to be a ‘credible witness’.
She was allowed to take the stand after Judge Richard Berman issued her caveats making her aware of the pitfalls and the dangers of such a move. Her defence team was literally scared that she could turn out to be her own worst enemy given her past record of outbursts.
She had been thrown out of the court several times after being admonished by the judge not to speak out of turn.
But on Thursday she surprised them all and remained calm and composed.Dr Aafia again denied picking up an M4 rifle and taking a shot at American soldiers and instead maintained that she was scared and wanted to run away as she heard conversations from behind the curtain during her incarceration at Ghazni.
She said as she peeked out of the curtain she was shot and injured. She also accused the FBI agents who questioned her time and again of threatening to hurt her children in order to scare her.
At one point she became so chatty that she was asked by the judge to just answer the question instead of elaborating them.
She also denied prosectuion’s claim that she was trained in rifle shooting, saying: “I took physical training but not to shoot a rifle.”
She said she was shot two or three times by one person in the room and then shot by someone else. She also said she did not believe any US soldier in the room would be irresponsible enough to leave his weapon lying around.
A group of FBI agents and US soldiers had travelled to Ghazni to interview Dr Aafia after she was allegedly found with materials that included hand-written notes referring to a “mass casualty attack” in the US and listed several landmark locations, including the Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge, prosecutors have said.