A Pakistani doctor jailed in 2011 for helping the U.S. find al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden remains imprisoned, despite President Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to free him.
The doctor, Shakil Afridi, started a fake vaccination program to both locate bin Laden and attempt to get his DNA. The Pakistani government was particularly displeased with the U.S. for not notifying them of the Navy SEAL raid which killed bin Laden, and jailed Afridi a month after the May 2, 2011 raid. He has been held and sentenced on a series of dubiously legal charges since.
Afridi’s lawyer told reporters in 2016 the best hope for his release was U.S. pressure, but that the Obama administration had not shown their support. His lawyer continued that Afridi has languished for much of his sentence in solitary confinement. “I have no hope of meeting him, no expectation for justice,” he said.
“We the family want both the U.S. and Pakistan to find a diplomatic solution for his release as his children are suffering,” Afridi’s brother told Voice of America.
Trump pledged on the five year anniversary of bin Laden’s death that he would get the doctor released “in two minutes,” which drew sharp Pakistani criticism. “Contrary to Mr. Trump’s misconception, Pakistan is not a colony of the United States of America,” Pakistan’s interior minister said in a statement after Trump’s comments. He continued that Afridi’s future would be decided “by the Pakistani courts and the government of Pakistan and not by Mr. Donald Trump, even if he becomes the president of the United States.”
“We believe Dr. Afridi has been unjustly imprisoned and have clearly communicated our position to Pakistan on Dr. Afridi’s case, both in public and in private,” a State Department spokesman told VOA Sunday. “We continue to raise this issue at the highest levels during discussions with Pakistan’s leadership,” they continued. “Pakistan has assured us that Dr. Afridi is being treated humanely and is in good health.”
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