Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Aafia Siddiqui: An Update

Last month I posted on the Pakistani woman who was arrested and then charged by the FBI for attempted murder (here and here). In each post I pointed out that there were a number of serious questions about her arrest and the charges against her that were simply not answered in the news accounts available.

An AP article, which I will not be quoting very much of for obvious reasons, does shed a little light, but not much, on the unusual proceedings.

The federal indictment has been unsealed, and the documents agents found in her handbag when she was arrested in Afghanistan are more specifically described than they were in this NY Times article which referred only to "documents describing the creation of explosives." According to the AP report, those documents were actually notes of some targets to be attacked in the US, including some famous sites in New York City:

Aafia Siddiqui had notes ''that referred to a 'mass casualty attack''' and to ''the construction of dirty bombs, chemical and biological weapons and other explosives,'' the indictment said. ''These notes also discussed the mortality rates associated with certain of these weapons and explosives.''

Sounds like pretty serious stuff to me, but the disconnect between this evidence and the charges against her (attempted murder of the FBI and soldiers present at her arrest and interrogation) is still a puzzlement. Why no terrorist charges?

The answer to that question is buried in the article towards the end: those notes, assuming they exist, were not substantial enough to suggest any kind of credible plot. There was no way the federal prosecutors were going to be able to prove up any terrorist charges based just on those notes, and apparently they don't have anything else. I guess they've finally learned their lesson on over-charging.

We still have no idea on where Ms. Siddiqui has been since she disappeared in 2003, nor where her children are. The answer to that question will probably have to wait until trial, assuming the case goes that direction.

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