NEW YORK – Jurors heard a U.S.-trained Pakistani scientist portrayed Monday in closing arguments at her attempted murder trial as both a would-be terrorist determined to kill Americans and a fearful woman framed by the government.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher La Vigne cited testimony that Aafia Siddiqui had bomb-making instructions, documents referencing a "mass casualty attack" and a list of New York City landmarks including the Statue of Liberty when she was detained in Afghanistan in 2008.
Siddqui was carrying "a road map for destruction — documents about attacking the United States," he said in federal court in Manhattan.
During the two-week trial, FBI agents and U.S. soldiers testified that when they went to interrogate Siddiqui at an Afghan police station, she snatched up an unattended assault rifle and shot at them while yelling, "Death to Americans." She was wounded by return fire but recovered and was brought to the United States to face charges.
La Vigne, sometimes holding up the U.S. military-issued M4 rifle, argued that to acquit Siddiqui jurors would have to conclude the government witnesses "lied to your face."
Though Siddiqui was not charged with terrorism, authorities have portrayed her as a combative Al Qaeda sympathizer who hated the United States.
"She saw a chance to kill Americans and took it," the prosecutor said. "Now you have the chance to hold the defendant responsible for what she did."
In her closing argument, defense attorney Linda Moreno accused the prosecutors of trying to play on the jury's fears.
"They want to scare you into convicting Aafia Siddiqui," she said. "The defense trusts that you're much smarter than that."
She said there was no physical evidence that the weapon was "touched by Dr. Siddqui, let alone fired by her."
Siddiqui, 37, a frail-looking neuroscience specialist who trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brandeis University, has vehemently denied the charges in courtroom tirades.
She testified last week that she had been held in a "secret prison" before her capture. She claimed she feared being sent back and was shot while trying to escape.
"This is crazy," she said about the accusations. "It's just ridiculous. ... I never attempted murder, no way. It's a heavy word."
The judge has allowed Siddiqui to decide each day whether she wants to attend the trial. She was absent Monday morning.