Aafia Siddiqui, a U.S.-educated Pakistani neuroscientist, was Thursday sentenced by a U.S. judge to 86 years imprisonment for allegedly shooting at US agents in Afghanistan.
Judge Richard Berman announced the verdict in a Federal District Court in Manhattan. The defense, citing her mental illness, had pleaded 12 years imprisonment after a jury found her guilty. But prosecutors insisted on a much tougher punishment for Ms Siddiqui.
The case of the scientist had attracted the attention of human rights groups, some of which conducted campaigns in favor of a lenient sentence. Pakistani-Americans also raised their voice against her detention.
Dawn Cardi, one of defense lawyers, said the defense would appeal the sentence.
A woman in the court shouted shame shame shame when the sentence was announced.
In a rambling speech, Dr Siddiqui said she is not mentally ill. “I am ok,” she proclaimed.
Aafia Siddiqui appealed to the people not to turn violent in protest against her sentence. “Don’t get angry,” Siddiqui said in court to her supporters after the sentence was announced. “Forgive Judge Berman.”
Ms Siddiqui said she was tortured while in captivity in Afghanistan but she has not been subjected to maltreatment in the United States.
“I am not sad. I am not distressed. … They are not torturing me,” she said. “This is a myth and lie and its being spread among the Muslims.”
Ms Siddiqui said she only has a message of peace. “I do not want any bloodshed. I do not want any misunderstanding. I really want to make peace and end the wars,” she said.
The judge recommended that Aafia be sent to a medical facility in Texas.
A jury in February found Ms. Siddiqui, 37, guilty of all seven counts against her, including attempted murder, after three days of deliberations following a controversial trial.
American authorities have alleged that during cross-examination, she grabbed a rifle and began firing at an army captain, a claim vehemently denied by Ms. Siddiqui’s lawyers based on the argument that she is too small and weak to handle the heavy rifles.
The only person injured during the episode, however, was Ms. Siddiqui who was shot in the torso by one of US interrogators.
After the guilty verdict, her attorneys argued that there was no physical evidence that Siddiqui had touched a weapon.
Human rights organizations say Siddiqui was abducted in Pakistan along with her three children in 2003 and held captive for five years by the US and was interrogated and tortured while held in secret prisons.