Outbursts and Ejections in Afghan Shooting Trial

From the beginning, disruptions have plagued the trial of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani scientist accused of trying to shoot United States Army officers while detained in Afghanistan in 2008. And Monday was hardly an exception.

The defendant was ejected from a Lower Manhattan courtroom — not once, but twice — on Monday for loudly proclaiming her innocence. And, in a separate episode between the two ejections, a spectator who pointed his thumb and index finger like a gun at the jury while mouthing an expletive was taken into custody and later released.
The judge later dismissed two jurors who said they felt threatened. “They were visibly upset,” a court official said.
The trial, which is in its second week, is taking place under heavy security in United States District Court, with a metal detector and guards at the courtroom door. Still, there have been breaches. On Monday, Judge Richard M. Berman noted some of them in explaining his ruling against a defense motion for greater public access to the court.
So far, three people have sneaked recording devices into the courtroom, said Judge Berman, adding that one audience member had even passed a cellphone, which is also banned, to a member of the defense team.
“The court finds that the additional security measures are necessary,” the judge announced.
A day of drama also included emotional testimony from the soldier whose M4 rifle was used in the alleged murder attempt, which took place in a police headquarters building in Afghanistan on July 18, 2008. Judge Berman said the soldier’s name was withheld at the prosecution’s request.
That soldier, whose name was entered into the record only as “chief warrant officer,” explained how he had laid his gun on the floor of a room in a show of respect for the Afghans inside, as is customary in that country.
“You don’t talk to somebody with an assault rifle around your neck,” said the witness, who wore a green uniform and walked with a cane because of an unrelated roadside bombing in Afghanistan. At one point, he broke into tears describing that bombing.
The warrant officer testified that Ms. Siddiqui, who had been out of sight and behind a curtain when he had entered the room, grabbed the rifle and hoisted it to her shoulder while aiming it at the Army soldiers and F.B.I. agents in the room.
The warrant officer said he then fired two rounds from his 9-millimeter pistol, hitting Ms. Siddiqui in the abdomen before she was tackled.
On Monday, the warrant officer recreated the scene with the gun from a chair in front of the jury box.
A few minutes later, Ms. Siddiqui — who was twice removed from the court during the first week for outbursts stating she was innocent — launched into her second outburst of the day.
“I never shot it!” she yelled from the table where she sat among her lawyers, before marshals whisked her away. She was kept out of court for the rest of the day.

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