US-trained Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui has been sentenced to 86 years in prison after being convicted of two counts of attempted murder by the federal court in New York today. Earlier this year, a jury had found Siddiqui guilty of attempted murder in trying to kill US agents and military officers after she was arrested on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack in Afghanistan in 2008.
In a trial that lasted three weeks, FBI agents and US soldiers testified that when Siddiqui was being interrogated, she snatched an unattended rifle and shot at them, chanting anti-US slogans. Prosecutors said Siddiqui is a cold-blooded radical who deserves life in prison. Siddiqui's lawyers, meanwhile, maintain that she suffers from mental illness and harmed only herself with her behavior.
Pakistanis in New York and in several Pakistani cities took the streets to protest the sentencing, believing Siddiqui to be innocent on all counts. A provincial Chief Minister in Pakistan, Sharmila Farooqui of Sindh, requested the US to release Siddiqui on humanitarian grounds and as a goodwill gesture.
But whether she is guilty or not, Siddiqui's plight has already stirred protest rallies across the globe. The New York court's sentence has imprisoned a Pakistani citizen at the risk of creating further friction with arguably America's most crucial ally in the war on terror.
Did Aafia Siddiqui receive a fair trial? Should she remain in a US jail, or should she be handed over to Pakistani authorities?
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