Evaluation says MIT grad unfit for trial
Lawyer cites stress of imprisonment
NEW YORK - A Pakistani woman accused of trying to kill a US soldier and FBI agents while she was in custody in Afghanistan is mentally unfit for trial, a court-ordered psychological evaluation has determined.
Aafia Siddiqui, an MIT graduate and trained neuroscientist, is unable to understand the nature and consequences of court proceedings and cannot assist properly in her defense, according to the evaluation at the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas.
US District Judge Richard M. Berman in Manhattan described the results in an order sent to lawyers, according to an entry in the case yesterday.
Berman said the evaluation was being filed under seal. He scheduled a conference tomorrow for lawyers to discuss what should happen next, including the possibility of medication to treat Siddiqui's depression.
She was charged with attempted murder and assault after she was accused of grabbing a rifle at a police station in Afghanistan in July and shooting at US Army and law enforcement personnel.
She was shot and wounded.
In August, she was brought to the United States to face the charges.
At the request of her lawyer, Elizabeth Fink, and federal prosecutors, she was transferred last month to the Texas facility that specializes in mental health treatment for women.
Fink said Monday that she anticipated a heated conversation at tomorrow's hearing about whether Siddiqui should be medicated.
She said she was not surprised her client was incompetent for trial after suffering enormous psychological pain.
"There's every reason to believe that she was broken and that what happened to her that put her in this state was caused by her being held by the dark side, whether that's the Americans or the Pakistanis or the Afghanis," Fink said.
She said a government assertion that Siddiqui for the last five years has "been running free is just fantasy."
Siddiqui has failed to appear in court several times, and Fink has noted that her client has refused to leave her jail cell, interact with her lawyers, or open legal mail.
"She's been broken and she's lost her mind," Fink said.
A message for comment left with federal prosecutors was not immediately returned.