Doctor Shakil Afridi, who worked with the CIA on a vaccination ruse that helped confirm Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden’s whereabouts decries the treatment he is receiving in a letter smuggled out of a Pakistani prison. His efforts resulted in the successful raid in an Abbottabad Pakistan compound by U.S. Navy Seals where Usama bin Laden was killed.
Many American’s, myself included, feel Dr. Afridi was thrown under the bus so to speak, for political gain here in the United States and do not feel our government is doing everything it can to obtain this mans release. It was completely through his efforts that the U.S. was able to undeniably identify Usama bin Laden, and his whereabouts, prior to risking the operation resulting in his death.
“My legal right to consult with my lawyers is being denied,” the doctor wrote. The one and a half page letter, handwritten in Urdu and smuggled out of the Peshawar Central Jail, comes as Afridi awaits a December 18 decision which could result in a new trial. He was previously sentenced to 33 years in prison for colluding with terrorists, although the conviction was widely seen as punishment for aiding the U.S. in the operation which was ultimately very embarrassing for Pakistan.
“What sort of court and justice is this?” he said in his letter. Afridi’s cousin, Qamar Nadeem, verified the letter’s authenticity by matching it to letters Afridi previously wrote before prison authorities barred him from meeting with family and legal counsel in September of 2012. In the letter, he wrote that he is being held in complete isolation decrying the inhumane treatment he’s been subjected to. Qamar said Afridi’s words speak volumes of the suffering and mental torture he is coping with daily but also shows he isn’t ready to accept his fate without a fight.
Afridi’s legal journey has been long and arduous. He is regarded as a hero in the United States but is seen as a traitor in many parts of Pakistan. Mysteriously, the judge who overturned his sentence and ordered a retrial in August died in a gas explosion at his Islamabad apartment several weeks ago, raising suspicions he was killed. The court refused to grant the new trail and as a final appeal of that decision nears, local authorities have drummed up a host of old charges against Afridi. Supporters believe the new charges are meant to ensure that Afridi remains behind bars even if the collusion charges are thrown out.
“We are confident that Dr. Shakeel Afridi would be freed after a free and fair trial”, said Afridi’s lawyer, Samiullah Afridi. But others from the defense team feel the case has been crafted on political rather than legal grounds and a favorable verdict is unlikely.
I urge President Obama and all our other leaders in Washington D.C. to expend every possible effort in obtaining this hero’s release along with other political prisoners being held in Pakistan.