Amid growing criticism within the country about the denial of basic rights to the doctor who helped the Central Investigation Agency (CIA) zero in on al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Friday demanded a fair trial for him and an opportunity to defend himself.
In a statement, the Commission said that while concern about the security of the country is valid, it cannot be made the basis of denying rule of law to anyone. Stating that the trial of Dr. Afridi “falls well short of the due process standards on many counts – not least because the core principle of natural justice has been ignored and he was denied due legal assistance’’ – HRCP added that trying him for treason is also controversial. “His actions may well have been prompted by the declared policy of the State to fight all forms of terrorism in sincerity.’’
The Commission has also questioned the rationale in trying Dr. Afridi in a tribal court and charging him under the colonial vintage Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR); given that the ‘supposed offence’’ had taken place in Abbottabad. “Such treatment has given rise to perceptions that the only reason he was tried by a tribal court was to deprive him of the rights guaranteed under the constitution of Pakistan.’’
According to the Commission, the government should ensure that Dr Afridi gets a fair trial and is afforded an opportunity to defend himself against the charge brought against him. “That is every citizen’s right and there is no reason why Dr Afridi’s case should be an exception.’’
Meanwhile, lawyers of the Peace Movement – a civil society group working against terrorism in Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa – told AFP that they would appeal against the tribal court’s verdict which sentenced Dr. Afridi to 33 years imprisonment on Wednesday.
Dr. Afridi helped the CIA collect the DNA sample of bin Laden by conducting a fake vaccination drive in the Abbottabad area. With this sample, the U.S. intelligence agency was able to confirm his presence in the fortified house.