Pakistan: Doctor to appeal conviction for helping US capture Osama bin Laden

The family of the Pakistani doctor sentenced to 33 years in prison for helping the United States track down Osama bin Laden said yesterday he is innocent and dismissed his trial as a sham.

The conviction of Shakil Afridi last week added another pressure point to Pakistan’s fractured relationship with the US.

Afridi’s older brother, Jamil, and two lawyers representing the doctor said they will appeal the verdict, which was handed down last week in a tribal court whose proceedings were never made public.

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“This was a one-sided decision,” said Jamil. “All allegations against him are false. He didn’t do anything against the national interest.”

Afridi was tried under the Frontier Crimes Regulations, a set of laws that govern Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal region. The FCR doesn’t allow suspects to have legal representation, present evidence or cross-examine witnesses. Verdicts are handled by a government official in consultation with a council of elders, instead of by a judge.

The raid by American commandos infuriated Pakistani officials, who were not told of the operation ahead of time.

Afridi was arrested in the weeks after the raid. He was convicted and sentenced last week for conspiring against the state.

His lawyers said authorities have not given them documents related to the case, including a copy of the verdict.

Afridi’s brother said the doctor had an American visa and pointed out that he stayed in Pakistan after the bin Laden raid for 20 days.

“Had he been guilty, he would have escaped,” Jamil Afridi said.

He did not comment on whether he thought his brother should have helped the Americans.

In his first comments on Afridi’s conviction, Pakistani prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called Afridi’s actions “wrong”. But during the TV interview he also said: “He should be given a right to justice.”