Brother Urges New Trial for Pakistani Doctor Jailed for Helping CIA

Posted May 28th, 2012 at 11:55 am (UTC-5)
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The brother of a Pakistani doctor jailed for helping the United States track down Osama bin Laden says he is innocent and should be granted a new trial.

A tribal court in northwest Pakistan last week sentenced Shakil Afridi to 33 years in prison for treason. Afridi was accused of running a fake vaccination campaign to help the CIA obtain DNA samples of the al-Qaida leader and members of his family to confirm bin Laden's presence at a compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.

Afridi's brother, Jamil, told reporters in Peshawar Monday that the doctor did not get a fair trial and the verdict will be appealed. He said his brother is not a traitor and has been made a “scapegoat” by Pakistani politicians. Jamil Afridi called on Pakistan's chief justice to facilitate the appeals process.

In an interview later with VOA's Deewa Radio, he expressed concern about his brother's detention and said Shakil should be given protection inside prison. Jamil Afridi also said he should be given the opportunity to meet with his brother.

The United States has criticized Shakil Afridi's conviction and sentencing as “unjust and unwarranted” and called for his release. Pakistan has rejected the criticism, saying the U.S. should respect its judicial system.

The verdict comes amid already tense relations between the United States and Pakistan. Islamabad has not yet reopened a NATO supply route to Afghanistan that was shut down after U.S. airstrikes mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani troops last November.

Pakistan's parliament has demanded an apology for the cross-border attack and an end to U.S. drone strikes on Pakistani soil.

But the drone attacks have continued. Missiles hit a compound and a vehicle in the North Waziristan tribal region early Monday. Pakistani security officials say at least five militants were killed in the town of Hassokhel near Mir Ali.

Monday's strike was the third such attack targeting al-Qaida and Taliban-linked militants in Pakistan's northwest since May 24.

Elsewhere in Pakistan's tribal area, officials say gunmen opened fire on a passenger van carrying Shi'ite Muslims in the Lower Kurram agency, killing three people.

Six others were wounded in Monday's attack. The van was traveling from the city of Parachinar to the city of Peshawar. The area has seen sectarian violence between majority Sunni Muslims and minority Shi'ites.

And police in the northern district of Kohistan are investigating reports that a local cleric has issued decrees sentencing two men and four women to death for dancing together at a wedding.

Local official Khalid Umarzai told VOA's Deewa Radio that video of the dancing, which was taken on a cell phone, seems to be manipulated and that eight people have been detained for leaking it. He said officers have been dispatched to the area to provide security for the four women, who have been confined to their homes since the decree was issued. The men shown in the video reportedly ran away.