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Terror suspect's charges fail 'sniff test,' lawyer says

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Pakistani scientist, 36, educated at prestigious MIT, Brandeis
  • NEW: Charges against Aafia Siddiqui are absurd, attorney says
  • Siddiqui allegedly shot at 2 FBI agents, military officers in Afghanistan
  • She had been sought for several years, believed to be al Qaeda member
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Two lawyers for an MIT-educated Pakistani scientist accused of shooting at U.S. officers while in Afghan custody disputed federal charges against their client on Tuesday.

Aafia Siddiqui allegedly shot at U.S. officers while in Afghan custody last month.

"It is all fiction," said Elizabeth Fink, one of the attorneys for Aafia Siddiqui, who has been sought by the FBI for several years for suspected ties to al Qaeda.

Authorities say that on July 18, Siddiqui shot at two FBI special agents, a U.S. Army warrant officer, an Army captain and military interpreters who unknowingly entered a room where she was being held unsecured at a facility in Afghanistan. Siddiqui was behind a curtain and shot at the personnel with an officer's rifle, officials said.

She fired two shots, but hit no one, officials said. The warrant officer returned fire with a pistol, shooting Siddiqui at least once. She struggled with the officers before she lost consciousness, said officials, adding that she received medical attention.

"How did a woman who is so tiny engage in armed conflict with six trained men?" Fink asked at a news conference outside a New York courtroom where Siddiqui was arraigned.

The day before the shootings, Afghan police arrested Siddiqui outside the Ghazni governor's compound after finding bomb-making instructions, excerpts from the "Anarchist's Arsenal," papers with descriptions of U.S. landmarks and substances sealed in bottles and glass jars, U.S. officials said Monday.

Siddiqui was extradited to the United States and is expected to be tried for the alleged crimes.

Since 2003, Siddiqui's whereabouts have been the source of much speculation. According to Amnesty International, Siddiqui and her three small children were reported apprehended in Karachi, Pakistan, in March 2003 after the FBI issued at alert requesting information about her location earlier that month.

It was the first time the FBI issued a worldwide alert for a woman in connection to al Qaeda.

Several other reports also indicated Siddiqui was arrested in Karachi in 2003 and was in U.S. custody at a base outside Kabul, Afghanistan. And initial reports from U.S. officials said Pakistani officials indicated she was in custody there.

Fink said she believes Siddiqui has been in custody since 2003 -- but she did not know what government was responsible.

"I do not believe she shot at anybody," Fink said. "What the real story is ... I don't know. You don't know. Nobody knows."

Elaine Whitfield Sharp, a Massachusetts attorney also representing Siddiqui, told CNN the allegations against her client are "implausible" and that the charges "don't pass the sniff test."

"This is a very intelligent woman. What is she doing outside of the governor's residence? The woman is a Ph.D. Is a woman like this really that stupid? There is an incongruity and I have trouble accepting the government's claims," Sharp said.

"If she was carrying fluids and was considered dangerous, then why was she left unattended in a room behind a curtain? And this dangerous, hardened criminal picks up a gun and misses?"

Sharp said Siddiqui an American-educated neuroscientist who received an undergraduate degree in biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a doctorate in behavioral neuroscience at Brandeis University -- two prestigious colleges in the Boston, Massachusetts, area. She also lived in Houston before returning to Pakistan in late 2002.

Siddiqui's sister, Fowzia Siddiqui, spoke to reporters Tuesday, urging authorities to presume her sister is innocent.

"I fear a political prosecution to protect the United States from embarrassment, rather than from 'terrorism,' " Fowzia Siddiqui said.

If convicted, Aafia Siddiqui faces a maximum of 20 years on each charge of attempted murder and assault.

CNN's Barbara Starr, Mary Snow, Laura Batchelor and Chris Kokenes contributed to this report.

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