Sister of New York attack suspect says he may have been brainwashed; appeals to Trump

People converge with candles for a vigil to walk along a bike path in Lower Manhattan on Nov 2, 2017 in New York City. PHOTO: AFP

ALMATY (REUTERS) - The sister of an Uzbek immigrant accused of killing eight people in New York said her brother might have been brainwashed and appealed to US President Donald Trump on Friday (Nov 3) to ensure he gets a fair trial.

Sayfullo Saipov, 29, was charged in a federal court on Wednesday (Nov 1) with driving a rented pickup truck down a riverside bike trail, crushing pedestrians and cyclists, in support of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

As well as those killed, a dozen people were injured in the city's bloodiest single attack since Sept 11, 2001. Trump has called for Saipov to receive the death penalty.

Speaking from Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, Umida Saipova, his sister, said she hoped Trump would help ensure her brother was given "more time" and "a fair trial".

She told Reuters by phone that she and her family had been shocked to see Saipov sporting a long beard after his 2013 marriage.

Saipova told Radio Free Europe (RFE) in an interview that her family believed that her brother may have been brainwashed.

"We don't know who has brainwashed him," Saipova told RFE."Perhaps he's become part of some organised group. I don't know, honestly, how long it will take for his head to get rid of that poison, but I'm sure he will come to his senses, God willing."

Trump has tweeted of Saipov: "should move fast. DEATH PENALTY!"

Saipova told RFE she and her family hoped her brother would not be sentenced to death in some rushed show trial. Amid unconfirmed reports that the Uzbek authorities are questioning her family, she added that she did not know where her father and uncle were.

She told RFE she had spoken to her brother the day before the New York attack.

"He was in a good mood. It was a usual, good conversation," she was cited as saying.

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