NEW YORK - The sentencing hearing of Aafia Siddiqui in the United States District Court in Manhattan, which was to take place on Thursday, has been postponed till August 16, according to court sources.
A jury in February found Siddiqui, the 37-year-old Pakistani neuroscientist accused of trying to kill American military officers while she was in custody in Afghanistan, guilty of all seven counts against her, including attempted murder, after three days of deliberations. She faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each of the attempted murder and armed assault charges; life in prison on the firearm charge; and eight years in prison on each of the remaining assault charges.
That verdict put a final mark on one of the most controversial trials of a terror suspect, whose back-story has attracted the attention of human rights groups as well as federal prosecutors.
The jury ignored defence lawyers well-reasoned arguments that Siddiqui was innocent of the charges and that the weapon she was supposed to have used was never fired.
Defence lawyers argued that an absence of bullets, casings or residue from the M4 suggested it had not been shot. They used a video to show that two holes in a wall supposedly caused by the M4 had been there before July 18.
They also pointed out inconsistencies in the testimony from the nine government witnesses, who at times gave conflicting accounts of how many people were in the room, where they were sitting or standing and how many shots were fired.
The weapon was never in her hands, said Siddiqui, who explained that she was merely trying to escape from the station because she feared being tortured. She had been arrested the day before; in her purse were instructions on making explosives and a list of New York landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building, according to the prosecutors.
But the charges in the case were not terrorism-related and were restricted to the events in a 300-square-foot room of a police station in Ghazni. After the verdict was announced, Siddiqui was heard saying, This is a verdict coming from Israel and not from America. Thats where the anger belongs.
Elaine Sharp, one of Siddiquis lawyers, told reporters outside the courtroom, This is not a just and right verdict. In my opinion this was based on fear but not fact. After Siddiquis sentencing, the defence team is expected to make a decision about appealing the verdict.