He may have helped find the world's number one terrorist, but Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi has been smeared, tortured, starved and improperly prosecuted in the weeks and months following his arrest, according to a handful of new reports.
Over the weekend, current and former Pakistani officials began smearing Afridi as a corrupt womanizer as new details surfaced about the unorthodox way he was prosecuted under Pakistani law. At the same time, Afridi's brother has come forward with allegations about prisoner mistreatment at the hands of Pakistani captors. Whether it's the court room, the court of public opinion or his jail cell, it appears everything has gone wrong for Afridi.
The court of public opinion. On Monday night, Pakistani officials went on a campaign to discredit the man sentenced to 33-years in prison for helping the CIA find Osama bin Laden in interviews with Reuters' Michael Georgy. Most of the complaints dated back to 2002 and included performing surgeries without the proper qualifications and sexually harassing female colleagues. Tariq Hayat, a former Pakistani official, said he met Afridi twice and said he sexually harassed a nurse and stole an electrocardiograph machine."I made him stand ... I told him you are a characterless person, you have no principles," said Hayat, adding that he eventually fired Afridi. "I said 'you are a thief, doctor.'" Other officials offered a 2002 Pakistani health department document showing he was corrupt and "unfit for government service."
It's difficult to see the statements as anything but a public relations campaign to justify Afridi's tough sentence. However, that's not to say the allegations aren't true. The CIA doesn't exactly have a blemish-free record when it comes to enlisting unsavory characters, and though the allegations are disturbing, what else would you expect from a man who agrees to run a phony vaccination campaign without even knowing who the actual target of the campaign is? Given the requirements of the mission, it actually sounds like the perfect job for a notoriously unscrupulous physician.
The court room. Pakistan's confusing legal system, and the way it delivered the sentencing to Afridi, is only beginning to be understood by the Western press. But according to a new report by The Washington Post's Michele Langevine Leiby, the prosecution of Afridi appears to have been highly questionable. "Afridi was tried in a Khyber Agency tribal court, which follows the Frontier Crimes Regulation, a controversial set of laws different from those followed by the rest of Pakistan," she writes. "Under that system, cases are decided by a group of elders and a political agent vested by the government with almost absolute power to mete out punishments and interpret law. Defendants in the tribal court do not have the right to present material evidence, nor do they have the right to an attorney." Ijaz Mohmand, president of the FATA Lawyers' Forum tells Leiby it's impossible to justify the laws Afridi was punished under. “FCR is a draconian and inhuman law," he said. “Under this law, if a member of a tribe commits some crime the whole tribe is responsible for the acts committed by the other person. Their houses are demolished, they are arrested, fines are imposed on the whole tribe.” It sounds like the perfect system to prosecute a sensitive subject under if you want to dictate exactly how the sentencing is meted out.
The jail cell. The campaign against Afridi included savage physical beatings, according to Afridi's brother Jamil (pictured above), who told Fox News' Dominic Di-Natale that Afridi was tortured, isolated and starved after his arrest.
Jamil Afridi said security forces insiders told him his brother was tortured during the interrogation. Afridi was so emaciated when he arrived at prison after last week's conviction that he has put on five pounds just from being fed properly, his brother said.
"The blame has been placed on my brother because of America. We are facing a tough time and they should now support us. We should get justice and protection," Afridi's brother told the news agency. "Me, my brother, my family don't have any protection here. When I leave from this place, I don't know what might happen to me. I don't know in which guise someone might come for us. I am afraid of the government agencies, the Taliban and terrorists." Thankfully, Jamil said the harsh interrogation process is over. Still, given the entirety of how Afridi has been treated, and the way he's being championed in congress as a "hero," it's clear the U.S. and Pakistani governments are diametrically opposed on this issue.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.