The sister of truck-driving terrorist Sayfullo Saipov says her brother was “brainwashed” and should be spared the death penalty.
Umida Saipova said her Uber driver brother had a normal phone conversation with their mother the day before the attack — telling her that he was eating her favorite pastry while driving to the airport to pick up a client.
“We don’t know who has brainwashed him,” Saipova told Radio Free Europe from her home in Uzbekistan.
“We don’t know his circumstances. We don’t know. Perhaps he’s become part of some organized group.”
The family became “terrified” when they noticed that Sayfullo Saipov, 29, had started growing his beard in the style of some Islamic extremists after his 2013 marriage.
Saipov told them he grew out his facial hair to appear older and to scare off potential muggers.
“I don’t know, honestly, how long it will take for his head to get rid of that poison,” Umida Saipov said. “But I’m sure he will come to his senses, God willing.”
The Uzbek national fell under the sway of ISIS before steering a rented Home Depot truck onto a West Side Highway bike path on Halloween — killing eight people and injuring 13 others, authorities said.
He sped along the path for 14 blocks, crushing bodies under his vehicle, before crashing into a school bus near Chambers St.
Saipov escaped from his crippled truck yelling “Allahu akbar!” — but a New York Police Department cop shot him in the abdomen shortly after.
The suspect’s sister said their mother Muqaddas Saipova, 50, saw no signs of radicalization when she visited him in the U.S. earlier in the year.
“My mother said she would have brought him back to Uzbekistan had she noticed anything,” Umida Saipova said.
ISIS took responsibility for the attack on Thursday, calling Saipov a “soldier of the caliphate.”
His sister said their shattered family is now clinging to the hope that Saipov’s life will be spared — at least for a while.
“We don’t think he should be given the death penalty immediately,” she said. “We are hoping for a fair trial. We are ready to go there, if it’s possible, to talk to him.”
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