Pakistani woman found mentally unfit for trial

November 17, 2008 5:56:37 PM PST
A Pakistani woman accused of trying to kill a U.S. 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 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.

U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman in Manhattan described the results in an order sent to attorneys, according to an entry in the case on Monday.

Berman said the evaluation was being filed under seal. He scheduled a conference Wednesday for lawyers to discuss what should happen next in the case, including the possibility of medication being appropriate for Siddiqui's depression.

Siddiqui 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 U.S. Army and law enforcement personnel. She was shot and wounded as well.

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 Wednesday'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 government claims 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.

Janice Oh, a spokeswoman for prosecutors, said the office had no comment.

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