A Frontier Crimes Regulation commissioner in Peshawar on Thursday has set aside the trial and sentencing of Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani doctor who led the CIA to Osama Bin Laden, leading to the latter’s death by special forces in 2011.
Dr. Afridi’s lawyer, Samiullah Afridi told The Hindu on the phone from Peshawar that a fresh trial would begin within a month in the court of a political agent authorised under the Frontier Crimes Regulation. Dr. Afridi was sentenced to 33 years in jail after being charged under the Frontier Crimes Regulation, 1901, for having links with banned terror outfit Lashkar-e-Islam last May. His lawyer had gone in appeal to the commissioner. The assistant political agent of Bara subdivision had no authority to try the offence or pass sentence, it was ruled, and that it would have to be tried by a political agent, acting as an assistant judge, in a sessions court.
However, Dr. Afridi will continue to remain in the Peshawar central jail. Mr. Samiullah said Dr. Afridi was arrested in connection with the Abbottabad incident. It was alleged that he was part of an unauthorised vaccination campaign where he managed to collect DNA samples from the Bin Laden household, ultimately providing key evidence. The charges in his case did not refer to that matter but instead the Frontier Crimes Regulation was invoked, which has stringent provisions including suspension of fundamental rights. “This was done to keep him behind bars,” his lawyer said, adding that it was a totally one-sided and false case.
His lawyer is also petitioning the higher authorities to have the case tried by a sessions judge. The Frontier Crimes Regulation meant for the tribal areas has a different system where the political agent is a judicial functionary.
The U.S. has been putting pressure for the doctor’s release but the government has not budged. It has become a bone of contention with the U.S. Senate proposing making his release a condition for release of funds to Pakistan. The U.S. State department has been insisting that he should have not been arrested in the first place.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet on Wednesday gave its approval for Pakistan to accede to Council of Europe Convention on the issue of transfer of prisoners.