WASHINGTON: Expressing concern over the new murder charge brought against a doctor who helped the CIA to trace Osama bin Laden, the US has asked Pakistan to ensure that the jailed physician receives a fair trial for this new charge.
"We are concerned about the new charge brought today against Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who aided in the intelligence gathering effort that made possible the killing of the world's most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden," the State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told yesterday.
"Afridi's assistance in confirming the location of bin Laden was a service to the entire world and indeed to Pakistanis who had lost loved ones and suffered at the hands of al-Qaida," Psaki said when asked about the fresh charges against Afridi, who currently is facing 30 years imprisonment.
"We call on the proper authorities to ensure that Afridi receives a fair trial for this new charge," said the state department spokesperson.
During his October meeting with the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, US President Barack Obama had raised the issue of "unjust" imprisonment of Afridi and had called for his release.
Meanwhile, an influential lawmaker warned that such a move coming from Islamabad would make it difficult for continuation of financial assistance from the US to Pakistan.
"The US makes a serious financial commitment to Pakistan. This commitment is in serious jeopardy. Delicate diplomacy hasn't worked," said Congressman Ed Royce Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
"The fact that he has been jailed since he assisted in ridding the world of Osama bin Laden is outrageous. Let's hope that this situation is immediately resolved," he said, adding that the US ambassador in Islamabad is taking up this issue with the Pakistan government.
"I have made my displeasure known with the Pakistan Embassy in Washington today, and raised Afridi's case directly with Prime Minister Sharif last month. His government seems to be compounding the problem. I would like to hear secretary Kerry and US officials speak out," he said.
"It must be made clear that Afridi's fate is an issue of critical importance to the US government. It is a matter of justice for Afridi, and it is an essential litmus test of the relationship with the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif," Royce said.
"This case has serious consequences for US counter terrorism efforts. If we cannot do a better job protecting brave people who cooperate with us, there will be fewer brave people who cooperate with us," he said.
"Unfortunately, Pakistan is becoming an increasingly radicalized country, as extremism and anti-Americanism spreads in some religious schools. The mistreatment of Afridi reflects that destructive trend," Royce alleged.