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Aafia suffering from psychosis

September 13, 2008

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NEW YORK, Sept 12. Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, incarcerated in a New York prison, was diagnosed with chronic depressive-type psychosis, according to court documents released on Thursday.

Ms Siddiqui, who is accused of attempted murder of American soldiers in Afghanistan, disappeared mysteriously in Pakistan in 2003. She is married to alleged terrorist Amar Al-Baluchi who is being held at Guantanamo Bay. She suddenly appeared in Kabul, apparently accompanied by her son.

She was examined and first diagnosed with psychosis on Sept 2 by Bureau of Prisons psychologist Dr Diane McLean, according to a letter from the warden of Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center to Judge Richard M. Berman.

Ms Siddiqui “reported depressed mood, anxiety, ruminative thoughts concerning her son’s welfare, poor sleep and moderate appetite”. The letter also describes a hallucination: “She also reported seeing her daughter in her cell, and was unable to apply appropriate reality testing to this phenomenon.”

She politely declined to receive psychotropic drugs, the letter said.

Judge Berman ordered a physical examination of Ms Siddiqui by a female doctor last week after a hearing which discussed, among other things, her refusal to meet her court-appointed lawyer Elizabeth M. Fink. She refused the physical examination on Sept 5.

On Monday, Judge Berman ordered a psychiatric examination.

According to the warden’s letter, Ms Siddiqui was re-examined on Sept 9. She was again diagnosed with depressive type psychosis, this time chronic, by Dr McLean.

She spoke through a blanket she held over her head, and speaking ‘politely’ said: “I do not want to kill myself.”

The letter said that she had undergone routine mental health check-ups 10 times in August and six times so far in September.

Elaine Whitfield Sharp, Ms Siddiqui’s Boston-area lawyer, described the diagnosis as “to be expected”. The lawyer described Ms Siddiqui as “heartbroken”, a mother separated from her children and then held in prison.

Ms Sharp told “The Tech”, a MIT newspaper, that Ms Siddiqui was having a “normal human reaction to what’s going on.