Shakil Afridi has languished in jail for years — since 2011, when the Pakistani doctor used a vaccination scam in an attempt to identify Osama bin Laden’s home, aiding U.S. Navy Seals who tracked and killed the al-Qaida leader.
Americans might wonder how Pakistan could imprison a man who helped track down the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Pakistanis are apt to ask a different question: how could the United States betray its trust and cheapen its sovereignty with a secret nighttime raid that shamed the military and its intelligence agencies?
Afridi hasn’t seen his lawyer since 2012 and his wife and children are his only visitors.
For two years his file “disappeared,” delaying a court appeal that still hasn’t proceeded. The courts now say a prosecutor is unavailable, his lawyer, Qamar Nadeem Afridi, told The Associated Press.
“Everyone is afraid to even talk about him, to mention his name,” and not without reason, said Nadeem, who is also Afridi’s cousin.
Another of Afridi’s lawyers was gunned down outside his Peshawar home and a Peshawar jail deputy superintendent, who had advocated on Afridi’s behalf, was shot and killed, said Nadeem.
Afridi used a fake hepatitis vaccination program to try to get DNA samples from bin Laden’s family as a means of pinpointing his location. But he has not been charged in connection with the bin Laden operation.
He was accused under tribal law alleging he aided and facilitated militants in the nearby Khyber tribal region, said Nadeem. Even the Taliban scoffed at the charge that was filed to make use of Pakistan’s antiquated tribal system, which allows closed courts, does not require the defendant to be present in court, and limits the number of appeals, he said.
If charged with treason — which Pakistani authorities say he committed — Afridi would have the right to public hearings and numerous appeals all the way to the Supreme Court, where the details of the bin Laden raid could be laid bare, something neither the civilian nor military establishments want, his lawyer said.