US orders medical care for jailed Pakistani scientist

Pakistan , U.S.A.

NEW YORK (AFP) — A US court on Monday ordered medical care for a Pakistani scientist said to be seriously sick since being shot last month in an alleged struggle with US officers in Afghanistan.

Aafia Siddiqui, whose case has drawn protests in Pakistan and the attention of human rights activists, entered the Manhattan courtroom in a wheelchair.

She was brought to the United States a week ago and is to be tried on charges of attempted murder and assault against FBI and US army officers in an Afghan town on July 18.

Her lawyer, Elizabeth Fink, told a packed courtroom that Siddiqui had not received proper medical care since being shot in the alleged incident.

"She needs to be taken out of custody and put in a hospital. She's been here... for one week and hasn't seen a doctor," Fink said.

Another defense lawyer, Elaine Whitfield Sharp, said Siddiqui was a physical wreck following both the shooting and a five-year period in which the once high-flying US university neuroscience graduate disappeared.

Campaigners and relatives claim she was being held for much of that time in a secret US prison in Afghanistan, following accusations by US officials that she had ties to Al-Qaeda.

The United States, which has never pressed Qaeda-linked charges against Siddiqui, says it has no idea where she spent that period.

US prosecutors say she was detained July 17 by Pakistani police after acting suspiciously. The following day she allegedly grabbed a rifle in the police station and shot at visiting US servicemen -- who returned fire.

Siddiqui's lawyers reject the charges.

She "has gunshot wounds to the abdomen -- we are not sure how many -- and a long line of stitches from her breast plate to her belly button," Sharp said. "She understands she lost part of her intestines. Digestion is an issue. She's reporting bleeding."

Prosecutors said Siddiqui had been provided with adequate medical care since her detention in Afghanistan. However, they were unable to confirm whether she had been seen in New York by a doctor or merely a paramedic.

The judge ruled that "the defendant be examined by a medical doctor within 24 hours." The doctor will advise whether Siddiqui can remain in prison, or should be moved, as requested by her lawyers, to a hospital.

"It's a complicated situation," the prosecutor said. "Two and a half weeks ago, Ms Siddiqui tried to shoot her way out.... She's a high security risk."

Fink responded by gesturing to the hunched figure of Siddiqui, almost hidden from public view by her wheelchair: "This is a person who can't walk."

The court had been due to decide whether or not to grant Siddiqui bail pending trial, but this was delayed until an unspecified date. A new date for a preliminary hearing was set for September 3.



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This page contains a single entry by Marga Lacabe published on 12 de Agosto 2008 8:29 AM.

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