Tuesday, September 02, 2014


Loophole Offers Legal Out For Doctor Convicted In Bin Laden Case

Pedestrians walk past the jail where Pakistani physician Shakil Afridi is being held after he was sentenced to 33 years in prison for helping U.S. forces kill Osama bin Laden.
Pedestrians walk past the jail where Pakistani physician Shakil Afridi is being held after he was sentenced to 33 years in prison for helping U.S. forces kill Osama bin Laden.
By Abubakar Siddique and Farhad Shinwari
On the surface, the lengthy prison sentence meted out against a Pakistani doctor who is credited with helping bring down the world's most-wanted terrorist appears to be an example of perverted justice.

The U.S. government has made it clear that this is how it views the case of Dr. Shakeel Afridi, who was sentenced in Pakistan to 33 years in prison this week for helping the CIA track down Osama bin Laden.

His conviction under an antiquated tribal law, however, could prove to be his ticket to freedom.

The Frontier Crimes Regulations, formulated by British colonial officials in the 19th century, are still enforced in Pakistan's tribal regions. But many aspects of the regulations are not in keeping with Pakistan's constitution, according to legal experts.

Sher Muhammad Khan, a senior lawyer and human rights activist based in Peshawar, maintains that Afridi's trial and sentence violates basic Pakistani law. "I think his conviction is illegal and unconstitutional," he says. "It contradicts Article 10A of the constitution, which guarantees the fair trial of citizens. He was entitled to a fair trial but he was denied one."

Days after bin Laden met his demise in the northern Pakistani town of Abbottabad on May 2, 2011, Afridi was arrested. His alleged crime was setting up a fake vaccination campaign that provided DNA evidence of the terrorist mastermind's presence in the garrison town.

No Legal Counsel

Under Pakistani law, such cases would fall under the jurisdiction of the authorities where the crime took place -- meaning Afridi should have been tried in Abbottabad, located in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

Afridi, however, was tried in secret far away in Khyber Agency, part of Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas in the country's restive northwest.

This tied his fate to the Frontier Crimes Regulations, under which rulings are made by government officials and then rubber-stamped by a council of handpicked tribal elders.

Afridi's conviction has provoked an outcry in Washington.Afridi's conviction has provoked an outcry in Washington.
Afridi's conviction has provoked an outcry in Washington.
Afridi's conviction has provoked an outcry in Washington.
The accused have no legal counsel and have little recourse to challenge evidence presented against them or to crossexamine witnesses.

After two months of hearings, Afridi's 33-year sentence was announced on May 23.

He was convicted of a variety of treasonous crimes, including conspiracy to commit an offense against the state, concealing with intent to facilitate plans to wage war against the state, and condemnation of the creation of the state and supporting the abolition of its sovereignty.

The sentence immediately stirred debate and prompted an outcry in Washington.

On May 24, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said there was no basis for holding Afridi and expressed regret over his conviction and for the severity of his sentence. Clinton also vowed to continue raising Afridi's case with Islamabad.

The same day, a U.S. Senate committee preparing next year's aid budget to Pakistan recommended an annual reduction of $33 million -- $1 million for every year of Afridi's sentence.

Islamabad, meanwhile, rejected the criticism, with Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman Muazzam Khan urging Washington on May 24 to respect his country's judicial system and processes.

Some observers predict that Pakistan will have a tough time with that line of argument, however.

In The Government's Hands

One is retired Brigadier General Mohammad Saad, a Peshawar-based security analyst who has been following Afridi's case closely due to its connections to intelligence issues.

Saad says that flaws in the legal process that led to Afridi's sentencing are obvious and should ultimately make it easy for the Pakistani government to overturn Afridi's sentence.

This is because, should Afridi appeal, under the Frontier Crimes Regulations the judicial decision-making process will pass to a senior government bureaucrat, and then to a panel of more senior administrative officers.

Consequently, the government effectively retains control of Afridi's destiny.

Even if he were to appeal to a regular Pakistani appeals court, Afridi holds certain advantages, according to Sher Muhammad Khan.

First, he would stand a good chance of getting his conviction thrown out on the basis that the case should never have been tried outside of Abbottabad.

Khan maintains that, because the Pakistani judiciary has already passed judgments against Frontier Crimes Regulations rulings in the past, this could work to Afridi's advantage, as could the fact that the physician's conviction is so controversial in the sphere of international politics.

Brigadier General Saad goes so far as to suggest that the whole process might have been carried out by design. This, he says, is because the secret trial in Afridi's native Khyber Agency kept the lightning-rod case away from the gaze of the Pakistani media and away from the court of public opinion.

Ultimately, Saad concludes, the sentence was really aimed at setting Afridi free. "I think he has been sentenced because there is a lot of American pressure on Pakistan to set this man free," he says. 

"As a result, he has been sentenced under the kind of laws that mean his appeal to the Peshawar High Court against the verdict will be accepted. This will set aside his conviction and he will be free to leave the country."

Written and reported by RFE/RL correspondent Abubakar Siddique, with additional reporting by RFE/RL Radio Mashaal correspondents Farhad Shinwari and Abdul Hai Kakar.
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: TS from: Pakistan
May 25, 2012 20:10
This man deserves to be hanged for his treason against Pakistan, Osama can go to hell, no one cares about him, but the fact that this Afridi traitor went behind Pakistans back to help a foreign spy agency is nothing less than treason. He should be hanged for it.

If an American helped a Pakistani spy agency in the US target a wanted man, I think Americans would be incensed as well.

America broke International law by entering Pakistan illegally and assasinating Bin Ladin, no matter what the reason.
In Response

by: Stan from: Timbuktu
May 25, 2012 20:22
Oh yeah! And pakistan broke no law at all by hosting and hiding the most wanted terrorist in the world
In Response

by: William from: Aragon
May 26, 2012 00:00
Stan, the issue is not what Pakistan did or didn't do, it is what Dr. Afridi did under Pakistan's laws. You appear to agree with TS from Pakistan and that he should be hanged but that Pakistan should be censured as well. I am trying to understand how Bin Laden lived here for two terms of the Bush administration in peace and solitude, but did not survive two years under Obama. It leads one to ponder.......
In Response

by: TS from: Pakistan
May 26, 2012 18:09
If Pakistan broke any law, then the US is first guilty for hosting 19 hijackers of 911 out of whom not a single was Pakistani, they were your Saudi buddies but since you hypocrites need their gas you take your frustration out on Pakistan....America is guilty of hosting 19 hijackers of 911, giving them drivers licenses and teaching them how to fly planes.....

Pakistan is only guilty of helping the thankless hate filled US catch terrorists escaping Afghanistan after 911.
In Response

by: AGD
May 25, 2012 20:37
So can we have our billions of dollars back then?
In Response

by: F*ALL from: F*ALL
May 26, 2012 09:45
No the US can go to hell. This was blood money earned by Pakistan.
In Response

by: Amir from: Pakistan
May 26, 2012 18:12
you can have it when you return China's money and that borrowed from the rest of the world....

by: khan from: uk
May 25, 2012 20:26
i think everyone in the paki gov should be hanged the traiters suking up to the usa like dogs just to fill thier pockets should be a revolution get rid of everyone from a to b then live like men not the sheeps they have become
In Response

by: anti-pak from: N.A.
May 25, 2012 21:03
Pakistan = two face. Biting the hand that feeds them. Then blaming the doctor for "helping" the USA find bin laden. Well, im sure they had to take some measures since the pak government was too stupid to realize that he was right there. Or did they already know and didnt care about it.

Scenario: You have income that you dont deserve. You take it happily. The source of the money asks, hey somebody just destroyed a part of my house, would you help me find that person? You say, of course sir, its the least i can do since you're pretty much keeping me alive. 10 years go by, and the source has never found that person, 10 years go by and the person is in YOUR house. .... whos the traitor? I rest my case. Stupid PAKs.

Pakistan is completely wrong in this situation, as always, and they should just learn to shut up. If not, then i am sure that they are already a doomed state and will be dissolved in the very near future.
In Response

by: William from: Aragon
May 26, 2012 00:05
I like your passion, Kahn, but up until now Pakistan has been a victim of her environment. Musharraf had to live with the threat by Bush to bomb all of the religious schools in Pakistan if he did not cooperate. Bush and Musharraf are now both gone, and a new day is dawning for Pakistan.
In Response

by: AA from: Earth
May 26, 2012 11:07
"a new day is dawning for Pakistan"

Who are you kidding? Mr 10% is the President and the PM has been convicted by a court of law... it's the same old, same old.

Unfortunately Pakistan's education system is deeply flawed and there is no hope of correcting this corrupt system while fundamental fault is not corrected.

However, that does not give the Bully boy the US the right to bully Pakistan.Whatever crimes Bin Laden was responsible for the US should have provided the evidence... that is all the Afghan Taliban asked for. The US would demand no less from anyone else. But what does the US do - they make unsubstantiated allegations and then carry out extrajudicial murders to justify their way.

As for all these so-called money that Pakistan is getting from the US... 95% of it ends up in the pockets of corrupt officials like Mr 10% and none gets to the general population. The US is welcome to take their money, their drones and missiles and stick them where the Sun don't shine! They can take their corrupt stooges with them at the same time.

by: dacite from: canada
May 25, 2012 20:41
I guess Pakistan still wants American money. Too bad it has now lost whatever support it may have still had in the US.
In Response

by: AA from: Earth
May 26, 2012 11:10
Dacite, Pakistan doesn't actually need US money or US support... what it needs is for the treacherous US bully boy to leave it alone.
In Response

by: TS from: Pakistan
May 26, 2012 18:11
we actually s@#t on that aid, you should keep it, you need it more, you owe China $trillions....

aid aid aid, who twisted your arm to get that aid? shove it up your backside, all you 300 million americans...and enjoy the feeling.

by: ahmed from: hp
May 27, 2012 03:57
' "----Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR), formulated by British colonialists in the 19th century, are still enforced in Pakistan's tribal regions. But many aspects of the regulations are not in keeping with Pakistan's constitution, according to legal experts."

Since we all know that this FCR is not in keeping with the constitution, now is a good time to *DO AWAY WITH IT*.

God knows how many cases were misjudged under this 19th century act !!!

High time to start living in the 21st century.

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