Osama Bin Laden Doctor in Danger Inside, Outside Prison

The recently-jailed Pakistani
doctor who helped the CIA track
down Osama bin Laden is not only
in danger inside prison, according
to officials there, but now faces
threats from the Taliban and another terrorist organization
should they find him outside. Dr. Shakil Afridi was sentenced last week to more than 30 years in prison — a conviction that at the
time was reportedly linked to his
role in running a vaccination
program for the CIA near bin
Laden’s compound in Abbottabad,
Pakistan. The ploy was an attempt to collect DNA from bin Laden’s
relatives and verify the al Qaeda
leader was indeed in the
compound. Bin Laden was killed in a
Navy SEAL raid on the compound
May 2, 2011. Days after Afridi’s sentencing,
however, the Pakistani court
released charging documents that
claimed he had not been convicted
for helping the CIA, but for aiding
a Pakistani terrorist organization called Lashkar-e-Islam. Afridi had
allegedly given the group two
million rupees, or USD 21,000, and
provided medical care for militants. But today Lashkar-e-Islam not
only denied any links to “such a shameless man,” but said that they would kill Afridi if given the
chance. The money, a
spokesperson told Agence France
Presse, was a fine levied by the
group against Afridi. The Pakistani Taliban issued its
own gruesome threat against
Afridi, telling CNN today they would “cut him into pieces when we find
him” for helping the U.S. kill bin
Laden, their “hero.” Both threats came after a
Pakistani intelligence agency reportedly issued a warning detailing the danger to Afridi
coming from inside the Peshawar
prison where “many” of the 3,000
inmates held negative sentiments
towards him. Afridi was given
personal armed guards, according to local media. The doctor’s brother, Jamil, told
reporters earlier this week that
Afridi is innocent and the trial was
a “sham.” “This was a one-sided decision,”
said Jamil. “All allegations against
him are false. He didn’t do anything
against the national interest.” Afridi’s role in the CIA operation,
first reported by The New York
Times in July 2011, was publicly
confirmed by U.S. Defense
Secretary Leon Panetta in
January when he told CBS News’ “60 Minutes” he was “very
concerned” for Afridi’s well-being in
Pakistan. “This was an individual who in fact
helped provide intelligence that
was very helpful with regards to
this operation,” Panetta, who was
head of the CIA at the time of the
operation, said then. “He was not in any way treasonous towards
Pakistan, he was not doing
anything that would in any way
undermine Pakistan… Pakistan and
the United States have a common
cause against terrorism.” After Afridi’s conviction, Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S.
would continue to pressure
Pakistan to release Afridi, saying,
“his treatment is unjust and
unwarranted.” Last week the U.S. Senate moved
to cut Pakistani aid by USD 33
million — USD 1 million for every
year of Afridi’s sentence — in
response to his conviction. “We call upon the Pakistani
government to pardon and release
Dr. Afridi immediately. At a time
when the United States and
Pakistan need more than ever to
work constructively together, Dr. Afridi’s continuing imprisonment
and treatment as a criminal will
only do further harm to U.S.-
Pakistani relations, including
diminishing Congress’s willingness to
provide financial assistance to Pakistan,” Sen. John McCain (R.-
Arizona) said then.

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