The brother of Dr Shakil Afridi, who has been sentenced to 33 years jail for helping the CIA in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, called on the chief justice on Monday to intervene directly to allow a swift appeal.
“My brother is not a traitor, he is a patriot. The sentence is one-sided. We will file an appeal against this illegal verdict,” Jamil Afridi, Shakil’s elder brother, told a news conference at the Peshawar Press Club.
It was the first media appearance by a family member of Dr Afridi. Lawyers representing the incarcerated doctor and representatives of the Amn Tehrik, an umbrella organisation of scores of civil society members, were also present at this occasion.
“I appeal to the chief justice to provide us security and help us exercise our right of appeal,” Jamil said, adding that Afridi, who stood trial in Khyber tribal district and is in jail in Peshawar, was innocent, loyal and not a traitor.
Jamil, who is a 50-year-old teacher, also accused the tribal administration of not releasing the court order.
“They are neither giving us the copy of the order needed to file an appeal, nor have they allowed us to meet Afridi in jail,” he said, adding that the higher courts should take suo motu notice of the case as Afridi’s alleged offence took place in Abbottabad while his conviction was announced by an assistant political agent (APA) in Bara tehsil of Khyber Agency.
Talking about the polio vaccination campaign Dr Afridi had organised in Abbotabad, Jamil said Afridi had been given permission to carry out the campaign by a deputy secretary and executive district officer (EDO) health, Abbotabad.
Jamil went on to add that Shakil was being made a scapegoat and that if he wanted to leave the country, he could have done so after Osama’s killing as he possessed a valid US visa. To another question, he told reporters that Afridi’s wife and children were Pakistani citizens and were still in the country.
The Fata Lawyers Forum (FLF) President Ijaz Mohamand explained that the appeal against Afridi’s conviction had nothing to do with FLF; rather, a panel of lawyers including him were simply assisting with the case.
“We want to tell the world that we are not myopic and wanted to give him legal protection,” Mohamand said, adding that the FLF had been approached by the Amn Tehrik to help contest the case and they agreed to provide legal aid.
Mohamand went on to add that they had been making the rounds at the assistant political agent’s office and Peshawar Central jail to collect copies of Afridi’s conviction order and a signed power of attorney, without any luck. He said that they had also submitted an application with the FCR commissioner on Monday.
The former government surgeon ran a fake vaccination programme designed to collect Bin Laden family DNA from the compound in Abbottabad, where the al Qaeda leader was shot dead in a US raid in May 2011.
Dr Afridi was found guilty on four counts under different sections of Pakistan Penal Code on May 23 by a council of elders (jirga) in the trial conducted under the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR). The APA of Bara tehsil, Khyber Agency, sentenced Dr Afridi to 33 years in prison and a fine of Rs320,000
After his sentencing, a furious Senate Appropriations Committee voted to cut US aid to Pakistan by a symbolic $33 million — $1 million for each year of jail time.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the sentence was “unjust and unwarranted”, saying Afridi was “instrumental in taking down one of the world’s most-wanted murderers”. (Additional input from AFP)
Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2012.
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