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Pakistan Seeks Return Of Convicted Woman From U.S.

Aafia Siddiqui in 2004
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -- Pakistan will take all steps to secure the release and return home of a Pakistani woman convicted in a U.S. court for shooting at her U.S. interrogators in Afghanistan, a government spokesman said today.

Aafia Siddiqui, 37, was convicted in a New York court on February 3 for grabbing a U.S. officer's rifle while she was being questioned in 2008 in Afghanistan and firing at FBI agents and military personnel as she was wrestled to the ground.

The jury gave a unanimous verdict on seven counts, including attempted murder and assault. Though guilty on two attempted murder counts, the jury said the crime was not premeditated.

Siddiqui, a U.S.-trained neuroscientist who spent years living in the United States, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The conviction was widely criticized in Pakistan, where Siddiqui is widely believed to have been innocent and mistreated in detention. Small protests were held in different parts of the country where anti-U.S. feeling is already running high.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit told a regular briefing the government would do its best to secure Siddiqui's release.

"The ultimate objective is to get her back to Pakistan and we would do everything possible and we'll apply all possible tools in this regard," Basit said.

President Asif Ali Zardari said he was concerned about the outcome of the trial.

"The president was concerned about the verdict and expressed the hope that justice will ultimately be done as the case passes through subsequent stages in the U.S. judicial system," the president's spokesman said in a statement.

None of the U.S. agents or personnel was injured in the July 2008 incident but Siddiqui, who the U.S. government has accused of links with Al-Qaeda, was shot.

About 2,000 Islamists protesting against Siddiqui's conviction chanted slogans against the United States and support for Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar in the southwestern city of Quetta.

Protests were also held in the capital, Islamabad, and the eastern city of Multan.

Siddiqui was arrested by Afghan police, who said she was carrying containers of chemicals and notes referring to mass-casualty attacks and New York landmarks.

She was not charged in connection with those materials and the charges she was convicted of do not mention terrorism.

Instead, the case centered on the incident that occurred the day after she was arrested in the Afghan police compound, where U.S. soldiers and FBI agents sought to question her.