(NEW YORK) — The recently-jailed Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA track down Osama bin Laden is not only in danger inside prison, according to officials there, but now faces threats from the Taliban and another terrorist organization should they find him outside.
Dr. Shakil Afridi was sentenced last week to more than 30 years in prison — a conviction that at the time was reportedly linked to his role in running a vaccination program for the CIA near bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The ploy was an attempt to collect DNA from bin Laden’s relatives and verify the al Qaeda leader was indeed in the compound. Bin Laden was killed in a Navy SEAL raid on the compound May 2, 2011.
Days after Afridi’s sentencing, however, the Pakistani court released charging documents that claimed he had not been convicted for helping the CIA, but for aiding a Pakistani terrorist organization called Lashkar-e-Islam. Afridi had allegedly given the group two million rupees, or $21,000, and provided medical care for militants.
But Thursday Lashkar-e-Islam not only denied any links to “such a shameless man,” but said that they would kill Afridi if given the chance. The money, a spokesperson told Agence France Presse, was a fine levied by the group against Afridi.
The Pakistani Taliban issued its own gruesome threat against Afridi, telling CNN Thursday they would “cut him into pieces when we find him” for helping the U.S. kill bin Laden, their “hero.”
Both threats came after a Pakistani intelligence agency reportedly issued a warning detailing the danger to Afridi coming from inside the Peshawar prison where “many” of the 3,000 inmates held negative sentiments towards him. Afridi was given personal armed guards, according to local media.
The doctor’s brother, Jamil, told reporters earlier this week that Afridi is innocent and the trial was a “sham.”
“This was a one-sided decision,” said Jamil. “All allegations against him are false. He didn’t do anything against the national interest.”
Afridi’s role in the CIA operation, first reported by The New York Times in July 2011, was publicly confirmed by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in January when he told CBS News’ 60 Minutes he was “very concerned” for Afridi’s well-being in Pakistan.
“This was an individual who in fact helped provide intelligence that was very helpful with regards to this operation,” Panetta, who was head of the CIA at the time of the operation, said then. “He was not in any way treasonous towards Pakistan, he was not doing anything that would in any way undermine Pakistan. … Pakistan and the United States have a common cause against terrorism.”
After Afridi’s conviction, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. would continue to pressure Pakistan to release Afridi, saying, “his treatment is unjust and unwarranted.”
Last week the U.S. Senate moved to cut Pakistani aid by $33 million — $1 million for every year of Afridi’s sentence — in response to his conviction.
“We call upon the Pakistani government to pardon and release Dr. Afridi immediately. At a time when the United States and Pakistan need more than ever to work constructively together, Dr. Afridi’s continuing imprisonment and treatment as a criminal will only do further harm to U.S.-Pakistani relations, including diminishing Congress’s willingness to provide financial assistance to Pakistan,” Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., said then.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN