Pakistan

Dr Shakil Afridi will neither be released nor handed to US, says law minister

ISLAMABAD: A jailed Pakistani doctor, Dr Shakil Afridi, believed to have helped the CIA hunt down Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden will be neither released nor handed to the United States, Law Minister Zahid Hamid has told legislators on Wednesday.

Dr Shakil Afridi, hailed as a hero by US officials, was arrested after US forces killed Bin Laden in May 2011 in a secret raid in Abbottabad, a northern Pakistani town that plunged relations between the uneasy strategic partners to a new low.

Pakistan has accused the doctor of running a fake vaccination campaign in which he collected DNA samples to help the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) confirm bin Laden’s identity.

Afridi was arrested soon after the bin Laden raid and charged with having ties to militants, which he denied.

“The law is taking its course and Afridi is having full opportunity of a fair trial,” Law Minister Zahid Hamid told the upper house, in response to a lawmaker’s query about reports of a possible release.

“Afridi worked against the law and our national interest, and the Pakistan government has repeatedly been telling the United States that under our law he committed a crime and was facing the law.”

In 2012, Afridi was sentenced to 33 years in prison after being convicted of being a member of militant group Lashkar-e-Islam.

That conviction was overturned in 2013, but Afridi was then charged with murder, relating to the death of a patient eight years earlier. He remains in jail awaiting trial.

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