The hero doctor jailed in Pakistan for helping the U.S. kill Usama bin Laden bared his frustration with the country’s tribal court system in a letter smuggled out by a supporter last week.
“My legal right to consult with my lawyers is being denied,” wrote Dr. Shakil Afridi, who worked with the CIA on a vaccination ruse that helped confirm the Al Qaeda leader’s presence in an Abbottabad compound, paving the way for the May 2011 SEAL mission in which he was killed.
The one-and-a half page letter, handwritten in Urdu and smuggled out of the Peshawar Central Jail, comes as Afridi awaits a Dec. 18 decision which could result in a new trial. He was sentenced to 33 years in prison for colluding with terrorists, although the conviction was widely seen as punishment for aiding the U.S. in an operation that proved embarrassing for Pakistan.
Afridi’s cousin, Qamar Nadeem, verified the letter’s authenticity by matching it to letters Afridi previously wrote before prison authorities barred him from meeting with family and legal advisers in September 2012 after he gave an exclusive interview to Fox News speaking from his jail cell.
In the letter, which was reviewed by FoxNews.com, Afridi wrote that he is being held in complete isolation.
“What sort of court and justice is this?” wrote Afridi, decrying the inhumane treatment he’s been subjected to while kept in complete isolation. Qamar said Afridi’s words speak volumes of the suffering and mental torture he is coping with daily, but also show he isn’t ready to accept his fate without a fight.
Afridi’s legal journey has been long and arduous. Regarded as a hero in the U.S., he is seen in many quarters of Pakistan as a traitor. A judge who overturned his sentence and ordered a retrial in August died in a gas explosion at his Islamabad apartment several weeks ago, raising suspicions he was killed. The trial court refused to grant the new trial and, as a final appeal of that decision nears, local authorities have drummed up a host of old charges against Afridi. His supporters believe the new charges, including one of murder for the death of a boy he treated for appendicitis in 2007, are meant to ensure that Afridi remains behind bars even if the collusion charges are thrown out.
A three-member tribunal, which operates under the archaic tribal law system, heard arguments on the merits of a new trial at a court in Peshawar on Monday. The tribunal’s decision, which could force local authorities to launch a new trial, is expected on Dec. 18.
“We are confident that Dr. Shakeel Afridi would be freed after a free and fair trial”, said Afridi’s lawyer, Samiullah Afridi. But others from the defense team feel the case has been crafted on political rather legal grounds and a favorable verdict is unlikely.
One of Afridi’s lawyers fears the letter going public could hurt the doctor’s bid for freedom.