Despite an apparent breakthrough in the case of Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani doctor who helped the United States track down and kill al-Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden, a Pakistani tribunal decided Wednesday to continue holding him in prison without bail.
The doctor's chief counsel, Samiullah Afridi, said his client's continued detention without bail "amounted to a violation of basic human rights," The Frontier Post,
of Peshawar, Pakistan, reported.
The ruling dashed hopes that Shakil Afridi might be on the verge of winning his freedom.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif recently discussed the case in a private meeting in Washington with members of Congress and MMR Global CEO Robert Lorsch, who is crusading for Afridi’s release.
Lorsch, a Hollywood executive and leader of the Free Afridi Campaign, told Newsmax after that meeting, "I’m pretty optimistic."
Lorsch and his wife, Kira, have launched a tireless advertising and promotional campaign to free Afridi, who is credited with providing the vital DNA evidence that led U.S. authorities to verify the world's most wanted terrorist was living in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Pakistani officials had no advance notice of the successful U.S. raid in May 2011, and were angry that U.S. SEALs entered the country to seize bin Laden without their knowledge or permission.
U.S. officials had feared news of the raid would be leaked, allowing bin Laden to escape. Afridi was arrested shortly after bin Laden was killed.
Lorsch and the Free Afridi Campaign were featured in the September edition of Newsmax magazine. Lorsch vowed to "move heaven and earth to free this hero."
Pakistani authorities subsequently tossed out Afridi’s 33-year prison sentence, ruling that the magistrate in the case did not have authority to issue such a long sentence. But Afridi remains in prison pending a new trial.
In an exclusive Newsmax interview, Lorsch says Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, was one of the members of Congress in the private meeting.
Lorsch’s role at the meeting was to emphasize to Sharif that Americans see Afridi as a hero.
Lorsch tells Newsmax:
"I was able to express on behalf of the American public and the world community how important it is to everybody that the prime minister do whatever he can in his power to make sure the families of more than 3,000 victims of 9/11 get to see Dr. Afridi, the man who actually pinpointed the location of Osama bin Laden, become a free man in the very, very near future."
Lorsch also says he conveyed "the incredible frustration on the part of Americans," and credited Afridi with a vital role in eliminating "probably the most feared terrorist of our time."
Lorsch says the longest Afridi could be sentenced for the crimes he faces is three years. He's urging the Pakistani government to release him with credit for time served.
"Just about every freedom-loving group in the world is horrified that the man who went out and spent years of his life at the expense of his family's safety, his friends' safety, and his own safety, helping the United States capture Osama bin Laden, was then arrested, captured, tortured, and punished for doing that while the people he worked for in the United States have stood helpless, unable to do something."
Lorsch is urging Americans to write letters to the Pakistani ambassador, with copies sent to Royce and the House Foreign Relations Committee, urging that Afridi be released. He adds that donations for Afridi are being collected at FreeAfridi.com.
"The money is being held in a foundation," Lorsch says, "and will either be sent to Pakistan to aid the family or given to Afridi should he be released and come to the United States."
A new hearing in the Afridi case has been scheduled for early November.
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