NEW YORK – A U.S.-trained Pakistani scientist punctuated the first day of her attempted murder trial Tuesday by shouting that the prosecution's first witness was lying, prompting her to be pulled from the courtroom.
Aafia Siddiqui, a reputed Al Qaeda supporter, is charged with trying to kill U.S. military officers and federal agents in Afghanistan in July 2008. Her outburst came less than two hours after her trial began in federal court in Manhattan.
U.S. Army Capt. Robert Snyder testified that documents found in Siddiqui's purse included targets for a mass casualty attack, including the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street and the Brooklyn Bridge.
"I was never planning a bombing! You're lying!" Siddiqui yelled as she was rushed out of court.
Prosecutors say Siddiqui used a U.S. soldier's assault rifle to fire at Americans during a chaotic confrontation at an Afghan police outpost in the summer of 2008.
"She said in perfect English, 'Get out of here,' and then she pulled the trigger," Assistant U.S. Jenna Dabbs told jurors.
Dabbs claimed that, during a struggle, Siddiqui yelled, "I hate Americans" and "Death to America." She missed, but a soldier returned fire, wounding her in the stomach.
The frail-looking neuroscience specialist — trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brandeis University — has vehemently denied the charges in courtroom tirades.
Before the jury entered the courtroom on Tuesday, Siddiqui told spectators that she had information about domestic terror plots, wouldn't work with her lawyers and was there against her will.
"This isn't a fair court," she said. "Why do I have to be here?"
She then sat slumped in her chair, her face veiled by a white head scarf, as defense attorney Charles Swift told jurors there was no conclusive evidence she ever picked up the rifle.
"There are many different versions of how this happened," he said.
The 37-year-old Siddiqui hasn't been charged with terrorism, but her case has drawn attention in part because authorities have accused her of fleeing the United States to her native Pakistan in 2003 after marrying an Al Qaeda operative related to Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the admitted mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Afghan police turned Siddiqui over to U.S. authorities there, along with a handwritten list she was carrying of New York City landmarks, prosecutors said.
Supporters of the scientist maintain she was kidnapped and held in U.S. custody before mysteriously turning up in Afghanistan in 2008.