Published May 29, 2012
The Pakistani doctor sentenced last week to 33 years in prison for helping track Usama bin Laden suffered torture, isolation and starvation during his interrogation, his brother told Fox News -- as he made an appeal from the family for the U.S. Embassy to help fight his legal case.
Jamil Afridi told Fox News in an interview that the Embassy so far has not reached out to the family of Dr. Shakil Afridi.
The brother said the family wants the U.S. to provide lawyers as well as pay the legal bills -- as questions surround the dubious legal process used to convict Afridi and hand down what amounted to a life sentence. He also said the broader family of roughly 30 people wants asylum in America.
"The blame has been placed on my brother because of America. We are facing a tough time and they should now support us. We should get justice and protection," he told Fox News. "Me, my brother, my family don't have any protection here. When I leave from this place, I don't know what might happen to me. I don't know in which guise someone might come for us. I am afraid of the government agencies, the Taliban and terrorists."
Jamil Afridi said security forces insiders told him his brother was tortured during the interrogation. Afridi was so emaciated when he arrived at prison after last week's conviction that he has put on five pounds just from being fed properly, his brother said.
The interrogation apparently is over. The brother said that based on what he was told by security forces, Dr. Afridi's conditions are "paradise" in comparison to what he experienced before.
But even after that ordeal, one Pakistani security official told Fox News that Afridi continues to be kept in isolation in a six-foot-by-four-foot cell.
According to the brother, the family is still being denied visits to him in jail. During the year prior to his sentencing, Afridi did not see sunlight while held by his interrogators, his brother said.
"For one year after he was taken in, we didn't know if he was alive or dead, which agency had him or what his whereabouts where," he said, adding that his two sisters were recently turned away when they tried to visit.
Further, he said authorities are "willfully avoiding and stalling" in providing verdict papers, so the family is unable to lodge an appeal. Shakil Afridi has three children -- two sons and a daughter.
The details provided by Jamil Afridi likely will add to the pressure on Washington to do more to help the jailed doctor, considering the role he played in helping the CIA track bin Laden before the U.S. raid on his Abbottabad compound.
The Obama administration has condemned the Pakistani government's decision to imprison Afridi, and claims to be pressing his case with Islamabad. Members of Congress meanwhile have called on the administration to step up their efforts on Afridi's behalf. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., told FoxNews.com last week that he thinks "the administration hasn't done anything to indicate they are serious about the demand for this man's release."
On the Senate side, a committee last week lodged a protest against the prison sentence by voting to cut Pakistan's aid by $33 million.
In Pakistan, government officials last Friday described the sentence as payback for how the U.S. went about getting the Al Qaeda leader and shrugged off criticism by American officials -- telling the U.S. to stop "over-reacting."
Rohrabacher, in response, accused the government of being "blinded by their radical Islamic ideology."
As for Afridi's current status, a senior security official working inside Peshawar's penal system with close knowledge of the Afridi case said the inmate is "confident about his future and an appeal."
"He has become an American hero," the official said. The official said Afridi is being kept in isolation in his tiny cell, though stressed the conditions were not meant to be a form of solitary confinement punishment.
The official also said the jail is facing a potential riot among its 2,000 inmates because militants among them have gotten word that Afridi is being held there. The wardens have also received death threats from militants, the official said.
FoxNews.com's Judson Berger contributed to this report.