NYC trial of reputed al-Qaida associate begins

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NEW YORK (AP) — A U.S.-trained scientist allegedly linked to al-Qaida and charged with shooting at FBI agents in Afghanistan greeted potential jurors at her attempted murder trial Wednesday with a white scarf covering her face and an impromptu commentary on the proceedings.

“I’m boycotting the trial, just to let all of you know,” Aafia Siddiqui said as a judge began jury selection in federal court in Manhattan. “There’s too many injustices. … I’m out of this.”

After U.S. District Judge Richard Berman responded, “Thank you, Dr. Siddiqui,” she put her head down on the defense table and went silent as prosecutors flashed a photo of her face on a television monitor.

The scene marked the latest in a series of courtroom rants by Siddiqui, who has refused to work with her defense lawyers and lambasted the court since her case began last summer. Her trial had been delayed so she could be examined by several psychiatrists, with most concluding she was faking mental illness.

“I don’t trust you,” she told the judge at one point Wednesday before the potential jurors packed the courtroom. She later complained that she wouldn’t get a fair trial if Zionists were allowed on the panel.

The 37-year-old Siddiqui — a specialist in neuroscience who trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brandeis University — is accused of grabbing a U.S. Army officer’s rifle during an interrogation in Afghanistan in July 2008 and exchanging gunfire with U.S. soldiers and FBI agents.

She survived a gunshot wound to the stomach and was brought to the United States weeks later to face federal charges of attempted murder and assault.

Prosecutors allege Siddiqui was carrying a list naming the Statue of Liberty and other New York landmarks, and notes about chemical and biological weapons when she was first detained by Afghan police.

They have also said they believe she fled from United States to her native Pakistan in 2003 after marrying an al-Qaida operative, and because she knew 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed.

The judge ruled Wednesday that the government could use the Siddiqui’s handwritten notes as evidence against her. But the government was barred from mentioning al-Qaida or Osama bin Laden.

Jury selection was to continue Thursday with opening statements scheduled for Tuesday.