Closing remarks are scheduled to be heard on Monday afternoon in the trial of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman charged with attempted murder of American Citizens, at a police station in Ghazni province, Afghanistan.
Although there are no terrorism related charges brought against Siddiqui, nor is she charged with any connections to Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or Osama bin Laden, these allegations have been cleverly interwoven in the attempted murder charges. The Prosecution does not have to prove them nor can she respond to them, as they are not the charges she is on trial for. Yet terrorism frames the Prosecution’s entire case.
Thus in closing remarks the Prosecution is likely to once again tell the story of how a would be terrorist tried to pick up a soldiers M4 rifle and shoot at a group of American soldiers and FBI officials who had come to interrogate her at a police station in Ghazni, about documents found in her possession including pictures of New York landmarks and notes about how to make a dirty bomb. As irrational an attempt as it may appear to be they will tell the jury that while shooting she shouted “I want to kill Americans” or “Allah ul-Akbar”, like the many irrational suicide bombers who came before her. Then they will tell, how, in order to save the lives of the heavily armed group, one soldier returned fire shooting Siddiqui in the abdomen. Despite the fact that she had expressed her hatred for Americans and desire to kill them, the U.S. military then rushed her to a medical facility for surgery and then transported her to a state of the art hospital at Bagram air base where she received 24/7 medical attention for the next several weeks as she recuperated.
Backing the Prosecution’s narrative are a series of “eyewitness” accounts all by Soldiers, FBI officials, and 2 Afghan Nationals who worked with or for the U.S. military. The Prosecution will ask the jury to ignore the inconsistencies in the details of the various eyewitness accounts, and focus on the larger theme, that they all saw Siddiqui grab the rifle and shoot. They will tell the jury that it is very common for eyewitnesses to give different accounts and to remember things differently.
The Defense will no doubt, remind the Jury of the depth and significance of these inconsistencies, arguing that though eyewitnesses can remember things differently, their most reliable recollection is generally the one given within days of the incident. For a majority of the Government eyewitnesses, their testimony differed from their own accounts recorded during the initial investigation. The defense will remind the jury that on key issues, such as who was positioned where vis-à-vis the rifle, whether or not they knew she was in the room, what they heard her say, or the attitude of the Afghan police officers, the accounts conflict not only with each other but with their own signed statements. The defense will remind the jury of a statement given to FBI investigators by female Army Medic Rene Card days after the incident where she said “Captain Snyder” would get “fried”, if they found out it was his gun, implying a cover-up.
The defense, however, is likely to spend most of their closing reminding the jury of the complete lack of physical evidence in The Government’s case. There were no bullets, casings, or gun shot residue of an M4 rifle, found in the tiny 300 square foot room where the shooting allegedly occurred. Neither Siddiquis finger prints nor DNA were found on the M4 rifle in question. Moreover, the Governments own FBI expert admitted that there is no evidence that Siddiqui ever touched the M4 rifle, nor that it had been shot.
The Defense will answer the Prosecution’s explanation that this was due to the “chaos” of being in a “war zone”, by referring to the testimony of a renowned forensics expert who said that the firing of an M4 rifle is such a “devastating event from a material standpoint”, that there ought to have been a lot of retrievable evidence. They may also describe the lack of any serious effort to obtain evidence, and remind the jury that a team of experienced investigators allowed the alleged assault weapon to remain with the soldier for several weeks after the incident and never attempted to obtain DNA samples from Siddiqui.
The assertion that Siddiqui is a terrorist is the backbone of the Prosecutions case because they don’t have one based on the material evidence. It is unclear whether the Defense will answer this charge and really present this case as Siddiqui herself described it, a “frame-up”. To do so they would have to refer to her allegations of being held in a secret prison under torture and threats that her kids would be harmed. So far, they’ve been unwilling to probe this in front of the jury, though they may refer back to pictures which show how badly she had likely been treated.
Rumor is milling, however, that the defense may also have a “glove doesn’t fit” moment in their closing. A 3-5 second video of a press conference in Ghazni after the arrest of Siddiqui was entered into evidence last week without any description or explanation of its relevance. That press conference was held in the same room where the alleged incident occurred, before it occurred. It is believed that this video shows the same two holes in the wall that the Prosecution claimed where caused by the M4 rifle allegedly fired by Siddiqui later that same day.
If the video does exonerate Siddiqui and she is still found guilty it will only have been because the jury believed her to be a terrorist. There is simply no evidence that she picked up an M4 rifle and fired it. As Tina Foster, spokesperson for the family from the International Justice Network, observed in a recent statement, “regardless of how weak the prosecution’s case, which currently looks like a flea circus, it all comes down to whether an American jury can acquit a woman with a scarf covering her face.”