Accessibility links

Brother Says Jailed Doctor 'Disgraced' By U.S. After Helping Find Bin Laden

Shakil Afridi was sentenced to 33 years in jail.

Shakil Afridi was sentenced to 33 years in jail.

The brother of a Pakistani doctor who was jailed after allegedly helping the CIA track down Osama bin Laden says the United States has "disgraced" his brother and put his family under "severe stress."

In an exclusive interview, Jamil Afridi told Reuters that he is deeply concerned about the safety of his brother, Shakil Afridi, who is being held in solitary confinement in a jail in Peshawar.

Afridi harshly criticized the United States for failing to protect his brother.

"The U.S. should not have [done this], even if the doctor did the job for them," he said. "If someone does something for you, you keep it secret; you do not disgrace him in this manner. The role that the U.S. has played is deplorable."

Shakil Afridi was sentenced to 33 years in jail after formally being charged with aiding the Lashkar-e-Islam militant group.

Pakistani officials had originally said that Afridi was being tried for treason for aiding the U.S. intelligence agency.

Afridi's supports say they believe his imprisonment is retribution for his role in helping the CIA locate bin Laden in his hideout in Abbottabad last year.

Pakistani intelligence officials had accused the doctor of working in cooperation with U.S. intelligence to organize a vaccination drive in Abbottabad that helped track down bin Laden through his children.

Bin Laden was captured and killed in a U.S. raid on May 2, 2011. Afridi was arrested by Pakistani authorities three weeks later.

Jamil Afridi told Reuters that his brother is viewed as a traitor by many within Pakistan who supported bin Laden and oppose the United States.

He says his brother's imprisonment has become a growing source of stress for family members, many of whom have resorted to wearing disguises to avoid being recognized in public.

Shakil Afridi is currently being held in isolation in the Central Jail in Peshawar. All the same, his brother said the family fears for his safety.

"They do not allow anyone because it is a security risk. The jail superintendent himself told me that there are Taliban inside the Central Jail," he said. "Others have told me there are many of them in there."

Officials in Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, of which Peshawar is the capital, have pushed for Afridi to be moved to a less vulnerable, maximum-security prison elsewhere in the country.

Some authorities acknowledge that they fear that bin Laden loyalists inside the jail may attempt to stage an attack on Afridi or that militants may even stage a raid on the prison.

Prison authorities fear a repeat of an incident in April where extremists freed hundreds of Taliban prisoners in a jailbreak in the western provincial city of Bannu.

Bashir Bilour, a senior minister in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government, told Reuters that the authorities were doing their best to keep Afridi safe.

"These are prisons only for people who are [ordinary] criminals. And now each and every day we have terrorists, and there's no doubt [Afridi's] life is at stake," Bilour said. "But we're doing whatever is humanly possible to keep him alive."

The case has only added to the wave of resentment building between the United States and Pakistan over the conduct of the U.S.-led war against terror.

The day after a tribal court handed down Afridi's 33-year sentence, the U.S. Senate voted to cut U.S. aid to Pakistan by $33 million -- $1 million for every year of Afridi's term.

Based on reporting by Reuters