Published May 29, 2012
A U.S. senator announced Tuesday he would introduce a bill stripping Pakistan of all foreign aid unless the doctor imprisoned for helping the CIA track Usama bin Laden is released. The Obama administration, meanwhile, appeared unwilling to budge from its talking points on the issue, despite an impassioned plea for U.S. intervention from Dr. Shakil Afridi's family.
"The blame has been placed on my brother because of America," Shakil's brother, Jamil, told Fox News during an interview in Pakistan. "We should get justice and protection."
Jamil Afridi claimed his brother had been tortured by Pakistani authorities.
In Washington, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said he would introduce a pair of bills next week to address Afridi's plight. One would strip Pakistan, which received $2.1 billion from the U.S. for the current fiscal year, of all foreign aid until Afridi's 33-year sentence is overturned and he's allowed to leave the country; the bill other would grant Afridi U.S. citizenship.
The measures would go beyond the vote by a Senate panel last week to strip Pakistan of $33 million in aid.
"Pakistan must understand that they are choosing the wrong side. They accuse Dr. Afridi of working against Pakistan, but he was simply helping the U.S. capture the head of Al Qaeda. Surely Pakistan is not linking their interests with those of an international terrorist organization," Paul said in a statement. "Foreign aid has been an abysmal failure precisely for this reason -- we give the aid to governments who then turn and work against our national interest. That must end."
Administration officials have made a similar case, saying repeatedly that Afridi was working against Al Qaeda, not the Pakistani government.
"We certainly believe and know that anyone who assisted the United States in the effort to bring Usama bin Laden to justice was working against Al Qaeda, but not Pakistan," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday.
But he and other officials would not go much beyond that in public statements.
Asked about the brother's plea, Carney said: "We have made our views known that the doctor in question here should not be held, as he did nothing that would justify him being held."
Carney said the U.S. is "consulting" with the Pakistanis on the issue and is "making our views known."
In a separate briefing, Pentagon spokesman George Little said "the Pakistanis are well aware of our concerns."
The administration so far has not explained what exactly the U.S. was doing before, and may be doing now, to secure Afridi's release.
Jamil Afridi told Fox News that the family wants the U.S. to provide lawyers as well as pay the legal bills, though it's unclear what legal options are available to his brother. He also said the broader family of roughly 30 people wants asylum in America.
"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," he said.
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.
Fox News' Dominic Di-Natale contributed to this report.