ISLAMABAD – A heroic Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA locate Usama bin Laden – but has been languishing in prison for six years – will have to wait another two months to find out if he can go free.
A Pakistan court last Thursday adjourned a hearing for Dr. Shakil Afridi, who is appealing his conviction on treason charges. The court pushed the hearing back to September 28 – further complicating his years-long effort to be released.
Qamar Nadim, Afridi’s attorney, told Fox News that the most recent court hearing was postponed because the government prosecutor failed to show up.
“The case has been voluntarily delayed by the state,” Nadim said. “The state is now using delaying tactics.”
The U.S. has been negotiating Afridi’s release for years – though talks have heated up in the past few months. He’s been widely credited with helping the CIA track down Bin Laden, the world’s most wanted man, who was killed after he was found hiding in the Pakistan city of Abbotabad.
Just weeks after the spectacular May 2011 raid, the doctor was arrested on treason charges and was later sentenced to 33 years in prison for having militant group connections.
“Dr. Afridi has violated Pakistani law and worked against the state and I don’t think our government will change its stance on his release,” said Shahzad Chaudhary, a well-known defense analyst in Pakistan.
For years, Afridi has maintained his innocence.
U.S. officials have repeatedly condemned Afridi’s imprisonment and called on Pakistan to release him. U.S. officials have, however, said they regretted revealing his role in the highly publicized raid.
His arrest has sparked years of seesaw negotiations and has bruised already tense relations between Washington and Islamabad. Congress has even threatened to cut aid to Pakistan if it didn’t release Afridi – but all efforts to free the jailed doctor have so far proved unsuccessful.
Chaudhary has compared Afridi’s release with that of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who in 2010 was convicted for trying to kill American soldiers interrogating her in Afghanistan. She is serving an 86-year sentence at the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Texas.
“These are the matters of give and take on humanitarian grounds,” Chaudhary told Fox News. “If U.S. could release Dr. Siddiqui, then Pakistan in return will release Dr. Afridi.”
The U.S. is unlikely to release Siddiqui, who is believed to have ties to Al Qaeda and who married a nephew of self-proclaimed 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.