Entries in Shakil Afridi (5)


Osama Bin Laden Doctor in Danger Inside, Outside Prison

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- 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 $21,000, and provided medical care for militants.

But Thursday 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 Thursday 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 $33 million -- $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.-Ariz., said then.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pakistani Doc Who Helped Find Bin Laden Had Ties to Terrorist Group

AFP/Getty Images(ISLAMABAD) -- The Pakistani surgeon who helped do reconnaissance of Osama bin Laden's compound was not sentenced to 33 years behind bars for helping the CIA, as initially reported, new court documents show. 

Instead, Dr. Shakil Afridi was punished for backing a banned terrorist group in Pakistan.

According to the documents, Afridi, 48, received his prison sentence last week for being a supporter of Lashkar-e-Islam.  He allegedly provided the group with money and medical treatment, and had several longer-than-usual meetings with the group’s top commanders.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Leon Panetta Calls Pakistan Doctor’s Treason Sentence ‘Disturbing’

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said it was “disturbing” and “difficult to understand” Pakistan’s 33-year prison sentence for a doctor who aided the United States in finding terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

Shakil Afridi, a 48-year-old Pakistani doctor, was convicted last week of high treason by a Pakistani tribal court for working with the CIA by running a fake vaccination program near the al Qaeda leader’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in an attempt to collect DNA samples from bin Laden’s relatives to try to confirm his location.

“It is so difficult to understand and it’s so disturbing that they would sentence this doctor to 33 years for helping in the search for the most notorious terrorist in our times,” Panetta said during a This Week interview.

“This doctor was not working against Pakistan. He was working against al Qaeda,” Panetta added. “And I hope that ultimately Pakistan understands that, because what they have done here … does not help in the effort to try to reestablish a relationship between the United States and Pakistan.”

Afridi’s conviction was met with harsh criticism by U.S. officials, amid already-strained relations with Pakistan after the discovery that bin Laden had hidden in the country for more than five years, before Navy SEALs raided his Abbottabad compound and killed him last May.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Afridi’s treatment “unjust and unwarranted” on Thursday, while Congress proposed cutting aid to Pakistan by $33 million -- $ 1 million for each year of Afridi’s sentence.

When asked if Pakistan can still be considered a U.S. ally, Panetta acknowledged the “complicated” relationship with the country.

“This has been one of the most complicated relationships that we’ve had, working with Pakistan,” Panetta said. “It’s an up-and-down relationship. There have been periods where we’ve had good cooperation and they have worked with us. And there have been periods where we’ve had conflict.”

“So our responsibility here is to keep pushing them to understand how important it is for them to work with us to try to deal with the common threats we both face,” Panetta added. ”And what they did with this doctor doesn’t help in the effort to try to do that.”

Afridi’s sentencing could also complicate negotiations over the re-opening of land supply routes through Pakistan for use by U.S.-led NATO forces in Afghanistan. After once charging $250 per truck, Pakistan is now pushing for $5,000 for each truck that passes through Pakistan carrying supplies.

“We’re going to pay a fair price. They’re negotiating what that price ought to be,” Panetta said of the deadlocked discussions. “We’re not about to get gouged in the price. We want a fair price. ”

Pakistanis for their part have criticized the U.S. for its drone strike campaign in their country, with the U.S. using unmanned aerial drones to target potential terrorist targets -- but sometimes leading to civilian casualties that spur resentment towards the U.S.

Panetta, however, called drone strikes “one of the most precise weapons that we have in our arsenal,” and said that protecting U.S. security by leveling terrorist targets in countries like Pakistan and Yemen takes priority.

“Our responsibility is to defend and protect the United States of America,” Panetta said. “And using the operations that we have, using the systems that we have, using the weapons that we have, is absolutely essential to our ability to defend Americans. That’s what counts, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pakistani Doctor Who Aided Bin Laden Hunt Gets 33 Years

AFP/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Pakistani doctor who aided American intelligence in its mission to kill Osama bin Laden has been convicted of high treason in his home country and sentenced to 33 years in prison plus a fine, Pakistani officials said Wednesday.

Shakil Afridi ran a vaccination program on behalf of the CIA near the al Qaeda leader's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in an attempt to collect DNA from bin Laden's relatives and verify that America's most wanted terrorist was indeed in the compound. On May 2, 2011, a team of U.S. Navy SEALs raided the compound and killed bin Laden.

Afridi's role, 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.

"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."

"For them to take this kind of action against someone who was helping to go after terrorism I just think is a real mistake on their part," he added.

One nurse who worked with Afridi but was unaware of the CIA plot and lost her job after the incident told ABC News that she considered him a traitor to Pakistan.

"It's good. He should be publicly hanged," the nurse said. "We do not consider him a hero. He is a traitor, a liar and a fraud. He deceived everyone."

Sources at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad said Wednesday the State Department considers Afridi's case "an intelligence-related matter," and as such declined to comment. In the past, senior officials there have said they raise Afridi's case with the Pakistani's "all the time."

Wednesday, one diplomatic official admitted the verdict didn't come as a total surprise, saying "we knew they were going to hammer this guy for quite some time."

The conviction follows an October 2011 recommendation by the Pakistani commission set up to investigate the bin Laden raid that a case of "conspiracy against the state of Pakistan and high treason" be built against Afridi.

The doctor was convicted under Frontier Crimes Regulations, a separate set of laws from common Pakistani law that are enforced in Pakistan's semiautonomous tribal region. Though the FCR has reportedly come under fire from rights groups for alleged deficiencies in its legal process, a local lawyer told Pakistan's Dawn newspaper that had Afridi been convicted under Pakistani legal code, he would likely have been sentenced to death.

Afridi was taken to a prison in the central Peshawar region, but has the right to appeal the verdict, Dawn reported.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Doctor Who Helped US Find Osama bin Laden May Hang

AFP/Getty Images(ABBOTTABAD, Pakistan) -- The Pakistani commission probing the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May has recommended that a doctor who helped the CIA find the al Qaeda leader be tried for treason.

Dr. Shakil Afridi allegedly conducted a fake vaccine program on behalf of U.S. intelligence, going door-to-door in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where bin Laden lived in a high-walled compound, in hopes of collecting DNA samples. The New York Times reported in July that an American official said Afridi was able to get access to the bin Laden family's compound but did not get DNA samples from bin Laden family members and did not see the al Qaeda leader.

The commission is questioning Afridi, who worked for the local government and who was arrested after the May 2 Navy SEAL raid that killed bin Laden, in hopes of learning more about the free vaccination program he launched prior to the raid.

In a statement, the commission said "prima facie, a case of conspiracy against the state of Pakistan and high treason is made out against him," and that "case under relevant law" should be mounted against him. If convicted of treason, Afridi could hang. The commission, headed by a former Pakistani Supreme Court justice, also includes a former U.N. diplomat, a retired general and a former police official.

The commission is investigating both how the U.S. was able to raid bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, which is close to the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, without detection, and also how bin Laden was able to hide in the city. The bin Laden residence was less than a mile from Pakistan's leading military academy.

In July, a CIA spokesperson declined to comment to ABC News on the alleged vaccination program. On Thursday, a U.S. official told ABC News that the U.S. has "repeatedly" asked the Pakistani government to release Afridi.

Bin Laden, his son and two other men were killed during the May 2 raid. Relations between Pakistan and the U.S. were strained by the raid, which was not disclosed to Pakistani officials beforehand. Bin Laden is believed to have lived in his Abbottabad compound for more than five years, adding to U.S. suspicions that Pakistani authorities were protecting bin Laden and other Islamist militants.

After the SEAL raid, over a period of several weeks in May and June, Pakistani authorities rounded up a handful of people who helped the CIA find and kill bin Laden, according to Pakistani and U.S. officials. Afridi has been detained by the ISI, Pakistan's intelligence service, since late May.

The commission has also interviewed the widows and children of Osama bin Laden, and has called for the lifting of travel restrictions on them. Pakistani authorities had taken custody of more than a dozen bin Laden family members after the raid.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio