Sentence over shooting US soldiers sparks outrage

People in Pakistan expressed outrage after an American-educated Pakistani scientist was sentenced to 86 years by a New York judge for an armed assault on American military officers and intelligence agents in Afghanistan.

In 2008 Aafia Siddiqui was detained in Ghazni, Afghanistan, after the local authorities spotted her loitering outside the provincial governor's compound. While in custody she grabbed an M4 rifle from a police station floor and fired on Army officers and FBI. agents before being shot in the abdomen. Her lawyers had sought a 12-year sentence, while prosecutors had requested life. Pakistanis were were glued to their televisions in anticipation of the sentence. As soon as the verdict was announced hundreds of people hit the streets in protest. Many chanted anti-American slogans and burned tires.

Pakistani senator Talha Mehmood, who was part of a parliamentary committee working on Siddiqui's behalf, said his country's government deliberately didn't take the interest for her release and alleged that the Pakistani ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani had a role in her losing the case in a Manhattan federal court. "Pakistan's ambassador in the US works for American interests. He does not represent Pakistani interests at all. He had a role for getting Aafia convicted," he told a press conference following the Thursday sentencing. "This is sham judgement and exposed the American justice system. However, the government of Pakistan is a real culprit. Americans have vital strategic interests in Pakistan and had Pakistan put pressure on Americans for Aafia's release, Americans would have released him, he said.

From Friday morning all roads leading to US consulates in Karachi, Peshawar and Lahore were closed to traffic. The students in the colleges and universities throughout the country boycotted their classes and carried out massive anti-America rallies.

During her 14 day trial, Disiqui would carry out angry outbursts resulting in her rejection from the courtroom on a number of occasions. During her testimony in her own defence she said that charges that she purposely shot at soldiers were ''ridiculous.''Prior to sentencing she was given an opportunity to address the court when she spoke about allegedly receiving beatings while in custody and said she was at peace. Afterward, she insisted that her lawyers not appeal. ''It's useless, pointless,'' she said. ''I appeal to God.

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