Murder charges have been filed against Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who assisted the CIA in finding Osama bin Laden’s compound. His information made possible the Navy SEAL raid that killed bin Laden. According to his attorney, Samiullah Afridi, the murder charges stem from Afridi’s attempt six years ago to save the life of a teen with appendicitis.
Afridi was sentenced to more than 30 years in prison last year after being convicted of “conspiring against the state.” Although officially convicted for providing financial and medical support to Islamic fighters as a part of the militant group Lashkar-e-Islam, the prison sentence has been long thought by western nations to be a veiled punishment for assisting the United States in locating bin Laden.
Afridi was able to confirm that bin Laden was living in an Abbottabad compound by setting up a false vaccination campaign. Afridi’s ability to pinpoint bin Laden’s location was a seeming embarrassment for the government of Pakistan as they maintained that they did not know that bin Laden was residing in close quarters to a Pakistani military base.
Shakil Afridi was charged in the case of the death of a teenaged boy who died after being operated on by Afridi in 2007. The mother of the boy filed a formal complaint, stating that because Afridi is not a surgeon, but rather a physician, he was not authorized to perform the surgery.
Afridi’s attorney argued that due to the amount of time that had passed since the operation, the case was without merit. Although his conspiracy sentence was overturned on charges that the official who sentenced him did not have the authority to decide the case and a new trial was ordered, the newly-filed murder charges ensure that if the retrial of his conspiracy conviction ends in an acquittal, the Pakistani doctor who found bin Laden will remain in jail to await trial on the murder charge, which is expected to take place in December. Making it difficult for Afridi to fight the charges against him, officials have prevented him from visiting with his lawyer or being present at court proceedings.
The arrest of Afridi occurred shortly after the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that ended bin Laden’s life. Amid pressure from his supporters, the Pakistani government ordered an independent report, which found that the arrest and detention of Afridi was the fault of the United States.
The investigation into the ability of bin Laden to live inside of Pakistan without the knowledge of the government also focused on the power of the United States to perform a raid on Pakistani soil. The report blamed United States official Leon Panetta for releasing Afridi’s name and his participation in the vaccination scheme, claiming that once his name and role in the raid were public, Pakistan no longer had an opportunity to assist Afridi in leaving the country.
With the United States demanding his release, friction has increased between America and Pakistan, whose relationship is important for the U.S.’s fight against the Taliban and al Qaida as well as the negotiations to end the Afganistan war.
The fact that Doctor Afridi declared a love for the U.S. in a 2012 interview and now finds himself charged with murder in Pakistan certainly adds to the theory that desire for retaliation by Pakistan for helping the CIA find bin Laden may be a big part of the reason for the new murder charges.
By Jennifer Pfalz