Pakistan: Shakil Afridi appeals against conviction

Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi was sentenced after he was found ``guilty`` of helping the US track down Osama bin Laden.

Peshawar: Lawyers representing Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi, who was sentenced to 33-year imprisonment on charges of treason, have appealed against his conviction.

Dr Afridi was sentenced after he was found ``guilty`` of helping the Central Intelligence Agency track down al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, who was killed on May 02 last year by US troops after a raid in his mansion in Abbottabad.

Dr Afridi had set up a fake vaccination programme to obtain DNA samples to identify bin Laden. However, Pakistan had recently claimed that he was convicted not for working for the CIA, but for his alleged ties with banned terrorist group Lashkar-e-Islam (LeI).

According to the Daily Times, the appeal, filed by his brother Jamil Afridi through lawyers, said the allegations were "false, concocted and without foundation". It said Afridi had "no association" with LeI and that the conviction should be dismissed because he had no opportunity of defence or fair trial.

Lashkar-e-Islam, led by Mangal Bagh, is widely feared for kidnappings and extortion in the tribal district of Khyber, where Afridi worked for years.

The appeal said Dr Afridi was kidnapped by LeI in 2008 and was ordered to pay Rs 1 million. The court said Dr Afridi paid Rs 2 million to the faction and helped to provide medical assistance to terrorist commanders in Khyber.

The terrorists, on the other hand, have denied any links to Dr Afridi, saying they fined him for over-charging patients, and have threatened to kill him.

The Peace Movement, a civil society group that has taken up Dr Afridi`s case, said the appeal was filed with the Peshawar commissioner who hears appeals against judgments meted out under Pakistan`s tribal justice system.

Dr Afridi`s arrest has worsened Pakistan`s already precarious relationship with the US, which has decided to cut USD 33 million from their aid to Pakistan – USD 1 million for each of the 33 years of Dr Afridi`s imprisonment.