Following a 14-day trial, Aafia Siddiqui was sentenced to 86 years in prison by a federal judge in New York in 2010. She was found guilty of attempted murder of US citizens and government personnel, as well as assault on US police and employees, by a jury.
According to a federal indictment, Siddiqui – a Pakistani scientist with a master’s degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a doctorate from Brandeis University – was detained by the Afghan National Police in 2008 for questioning after they discovered handwritten notes referring to potential targets of a “mass casualty attack.”
Prosecutors claim she was able to steal a US soldier’s rifle and open fire on the interrogation team when they attempted to speak with her, albeit no one was injured. According to court records, one of the guys in the room testified that she was “a vision of hatred” throughout the trial.
At her sentencing, the judge ruled that a terrorism enhancement applied to her offenses, noting words she made, such as “I hate Americans” and “Death to America,” that the judge concluded proved her acts and desire to retaliate against the US government.
The defense argued that Siddiqui was unable to stand trial, but Siddiqui regularly battled with her counsel, telling the judge before her sentence, “If someone thinks it’s my paranoia or anything, I’m not paranoid.” I’m not mentally ill in any way. That does not sit well with me.” She also indicated that she believes Israel was the “mastermind” behind 9/11.
Protests in the United States and abroad have been frequent in response to her conviction. The Aafia Foundation, a nonprofit group named after her, has staged numerous protests. Last year, she was allegedly abused in prison, according to the group. In interviews with CNN, her family has frequently stated that she is not a terrorist.
During a fatal hostage crisis in Algeria in 2013, a militant group’s spokesperson promised to release hostages if Siddiqui and 1993 World Trade Center attack mastermind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who has since died in prison, were released.
Siddiqui is currently incarcerated in a medical facility attached to a federal prison in Fort Worth, with a 60-year release date set.