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Feb 04 2010

Curious Case of Aafia Siddiqui Proves Terror Trials Can Be Done Here

Yesterday, a jury convicted an MIT and Brandeis educated Pakistani neuroscientist of trying to kill FBI agents and U.S. military personnel while she was detained in a police compound in Afghanistan in 2008. Authorities alleged that Aafia Siddiqui, 37, was an al-Qaida supporter who was detained at an Afghan police station on July 18, 2008, after being caught carrying handwritten notes referencing a “mass casualty attack” and listing the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty and other New York City landmarks.

Before she could be interrogated in an Afghan police office, prosecutors say she managed to grab a military assault rifle set down by a U.S. Army soldier and open fire at American personnel, but missed. The soldier, a chief warrant officer, shot her with his pistol during a struggle.

Siddiqui was found guilty on all seven counts against her by jurors who deliberated for less than two full days.

This story serves as confirmation of my last post about the Terror Trials. It can be done. Ms. Siddiqui was disruptive; she repeatedly shouted out Anti-American slogans in the courtroom; she had to be escorted form the courtroom in the middle of proceedings on a daily basis due to her behavior; two jurors asked to be excused because some of her supporters in court stared menacingly or mouthed obscenities at them; and there were protests outside the court every day by pro-Pakistani supporters who denounced the trial. The Pakistani government even paid her lawyers in excess of $2 million for the defense. Yet the trial moved forward, taking all of four weeks or so (including two weeks of jury selection) and a day and half of jury deliberation. This is a good preview of what a 9-11 trial might be like if it is appropriately limited in scope as I suggested yesterday.

The Siddiqui case, which was hardly covered by local media, is also relevant to the 9-11 trials because the government chose to try the case in NY even though the crime took place in Afghanistan. If this was not a war crime worthy of a war tribunal, how can 9-11 be one? This woman was arrested in a foreign country; is suspected of strong Al-Qaida ties; shot at American military personnel during active service and yet was tried in a civilian court, thousands of miles away from the crime, with all the protections that the Constitution provides. The government did not include the word “terrorist” or “terrorism” in the indictment nor did they use it at trial. They simply charged her like a common criminal and proved their case. This is the same strategy they should employ in the upcoming 9-11 trials and they can expect the same results. Guilty as charged.

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