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'Lady Al-Qaida' Awaits Sentencing For Afghan Attack

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'Lady Al-Qaida' Awaits Sentencing For Afghan Attack

National Security

'Lady Al-Qaida' Awaits Sentencing For Afghan Attack

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Next we'll report on two vastly different perceptions of the same criminal defendant. To Americans, she's a terrorist with a mysterious past; to people in her native Pakistan, she's a victim. In fact, she's become a symbol of the way the U.S. has mistreated Muslims.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Her name is Aafia Siddiqui. She was arrested in Afghanistan. She was convicted of attempted murder at a trial in New York, and that's where we begin our story. The first perspective on her case comes from NPR's Dina Temple-Raston.

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON: To hear U.S. officials tell it, Aafia Siddiqui was on the run from 2003 to 2008. She was on the FBI's Most Wanted List for almost five years. Then Afghan authorities found her loitering outside a provincial governor's compound in Afghanistan in July 2008. They thought she might be a suicide bomber, so they arrested her.

But that isn't why she was in a U.S. court. She stood trial in New York because of what happened after that. Prosecutors said she grabbed an M-4 rifle and fired on the U.S. troops and FBI agents who came into the Afghan police station to question her. They returned fire and she was shot in the abdomen. Her lawyer said she never grabbed a rifle.

Aafia Siddiqui's story before her arrest is even more mysterious. She claims she went missing for those five years because she's been in U.S. and Pakistani custody and that she was tortured at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

U.S. sources tell NPR none of that is true. They say they've been tracking her on and off for years. But her whereabouts weren't at issue in court. Instead, it's all about the shooting and it's all about whether Aafia Siddiqui, once a student at MIT and Brandeis University, was competent to stand trial.

Siddiqui was ejected from the courtroom for outbursts. One observer was arrested, so it was hardly routine. In the end, a Manhattan jury found her guilty in February of all seven counts against her, including attempted murder. She faces life in prison; sentencing is scheduled for May.

It's unclear whether she will appeal. The mystery of what happened during those five years remains unsolved.

Dina Temple-Raston, NPR News, New York.

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