NEW YORK - A psychologist, detailed by the US prosecutors to evaluate the mental condition of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who is in US custody on terrorism charges, claims that she (Siddiqui) was living freely in Pakistan and Afghanistan for portions of the five years before her arrest last year. Experts and some of her family members expressed surprise at the statement since the mandate of Leslie Powers, the psychologist, was to determine whether Siddiqui (37) was competent to stand trial. The testimony of the mental health experts will be at issue at a hearing beginning Monday in a US District Court in Manhattan to determine whether the Aafia is competent to stand trial. The neuroscientist was arrested and brought to New York in August last year for allegedly attempting to kill US personnel in Afghanistan. The FBI said she was picked up from outside the governor's office in Ghazni and she was shot at twice in the encounter. Later, she was sent to the Federal Medical Centre Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, on the orders of a Judge Richard Berman for psychological evaluation when her defence lawyers pleaded that she was unfit to stand trial. They cited the conclusions of an expert who found that she is suffering from delusional disorder and depression. Siddiqui was sent back to New York on June 17 after the completion of her examinations in Texas and placed in a high security prison in Brooklyn, a borough of New York City. Ahead of Monday's hearing, an American news agency circulated the report of Dr Powers, who had tested Siddiqui. While asserting that she is competent to stand trial, the report goes on to make some statements that, according to experts, go beyond her purview as a medical specialist. For instance, the doctor wrote in a document dated May 4 and put in the court's public file late Thursday that new information helps show Siddiqui was living freely in Pakistan and Afghanistan from 2003 to 2008, according to Associated Press (of America). That claim also contradicts assertions that the neuroscientist had spent those years in the custody of American authorities. Some of Siddiqui's supporters and her former lawyers had argued she had likely been taken into custody by a US intelligence agency during those years and was subjected to torture and sexual abuse. Incidentally, Dr Powers had, in her first report in November, also concurred with the conclusion that Aafia was not in a shape to stand trial. But Dr Powers changed her opinion in May, and Siddiqui's family members say she did it under official pressure. Prosecutors cite reports by psychologists who say Siddiqui's behaviour reflects malingering, the intentional production of grossly exaggerated psychological symptoms aimed at getting a result, such as avoiding trial. Siddiqui graduated in biology from MIT in 1995 and did her doctorate in neuroscience from Brandeis University in 2001. She left the United States in June 2002 with her three children. Experts also took note of another statement Dr Powers makes that, they say, is outside her mandate. Dr Powers wrote that Siddiqui has told the FBI that she worked at the Karachi Institute of Technology in 2005, that she tried to look for her husband in Afghanistan in the winter of 2007 and that she stayed for a time in Quetta. The psychologist also wrote that Siddiqui's ex-husband, Mohammad Amjad Khan, reported seeing either her or their children on several occasions in 2003, 2004 and 2005. "While her accounts of her time are incomplete, her statements and other facts gathered seem to corroborate that she was not held captive from 2003 until 2008," Dr Powers claimed. Dr Powers said Siddiqui was interviewed at length by the FBI for several days after her arrest on July 18, 2008. She claimed that the FBI agents who accompanied Siddiqui on her 20-hour flight to the United States last Aug 4 reported that she showed no signs of psychosis or psychological distress and that she was fully oriented and talkative throughout the trip (Her former lawyers had insisted that Siddiqui was in a precarious condition when she arrived from Afghanistan, and that she should have been be shifted to a hospital). In a defence exhibit, psychologist L Thomas Kucharski, chairman of the Department of Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, concluded that Siddiqui suffers from delusional disorder and is depressed, according to the AP report. He said her delusions "include the belief that the court is part of a conspiracy to have her killed, tortured and/or have her witness the torture of her children," adding, "She believes that the outcome of her trial is predetermined; that she will get the death penalty and has stated to this evaluator that there is no need to go to trial or work with her attorneys in her defence because of this predetermination. She required that I inform the court to just impose the death penalty or whatever penalty it chooses and to not bother her with the formality of proceedings." Gregory Saathoff, an associate professor in psychiatric medicine at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, said delusions Aafia had involved flying infants, dark angels, a dog in her cell and children visiting her in her room were largely resolved after she believed she was found incompetent to stand trial. Sally Johnson, a professor in the Psychiatry Department at the University of North Carolina, wrote in a March 16 report that Siddiqui's medical problems have been treated and stabilised. She said Siddiqui has given vague accounts of her whereabouts from 2003 to 2008, saying she was given shelter by different people. She further said Siddiqui has also given varying accounts of where her children were during those years but told one agent that sometimes one has to take up a cause that is more important than one's children, according to the report. Johnson left a warning at the end of her report, saying that in spite of Siddiqui's frail and timid appearance - she has weighed as little as 90 pounds - "her potential for aggression towards herself or others might be underestimated." She cited reports that Siddiqui had taken actions to try to escape from custody before she was transferred to the United States. Johnson recommended that adequate care be taken to protect her. "Given her expressed degree of devotion to her belief system," she wrote, "it is possible that she could perceive herself as a martyr for a cause." Meanwhile, a senior Pakistani diplomat in Washington is keeping a close watch on the developments in the case. Fakir Asif Hussain said the embassy has been in constant contact with Aafia Siddiqui and making efforts for protecting her legal rights. Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States Hussain Haqqani met Siddiqui in Texas last month and assured her of his government's full support for her early repatriation to homeland.