Pakistani female terror suspect appears in US court (Lead)

August 6th, 2008 - 1:21 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 5 (DPA) A Pakistani woman suspected of plotting to blow up targets in the US was to appear in a New York court Tuesday to face charges of attempted murder, the US Justice Department said. Aafia Siddiqui, who was educated in the US, had been sought by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a number of years on suspicion of ties to Al Qaeda.

Siddiqui, 36, was arrested by local police in Afghanistan last month outside the Ghazni provincial governor’s compound, carrying documents on how to make explosives and descriptions of landmarks in New York and other parts of the United States, the Justice Department said.

But the two charges she faces are related to the attempted murder and assault of US personnel at an Afghan facility where she was being held.

The Justice Department described an incident at the facility where Siddiqui grabbed a rifle and attempted to shoot a US Army captain in the room where she was being held. An interpreter also in the room lunged at Siddiqui and redirected the rifle.

However in Karachi, Siddiqui’s family members along with rights groups Tuesday alleged that Siddiqui and her three children were in fact arrested by Pakistani intelligence agents in Karachi in March 2003, after she was the subject of an FBI alert for alleged links with Al Qaeda.

In an emotional press conference in Karachi, Siddiqui’s sister Fauzia Siddiqui rejected this version of events, and accused the US of her illegal detention, torture and rape.

“After five years of detention, Aafia was suddenly ‘discovered’ in Afghanistan? I am not that much of a believer in coincidence,” said Fauzia Siddiqui, who also claimed that her sister had suffered mentally due to “extreme torture including rape”.

“Her rape and torture is a crime beyond anything she was ever accused of (which was basically nothing) and this is a slap on the honour of a whole people,” she said.

Independent rights group The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in a statement also termed the US claims as lies.

“To say that she had been taken into custody only on July 17, 2008 is a blatant lie,” it said. “The insinuation, that she had been hiding herself since 2003, is a travesty of truth.”

If convicted of the latest charges against her, Siddiqui faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each count of attempted murder and assault.

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