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By Saagar Enjeti
The Trump administration is trying to facilitate the release of a Pakistani doctor who was jailed for helping the CIA locate Osama Bin-Laden, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The doctor, Shakil Afridi, started a fake vaccination program to both locate bin Laden and attempt to get his DNA. The Pakistani government was particularly displeased with the U.S. for not notifying them of the Navy SEAL raid which killed bin Laden, and jailed Afridi a month after the May 2, 2011, raid. He has been held and sentenced on a series of dubiously legal charges since.
Pakistani officials reportedly want better relations with the U.S. and may even consider giving Afridi a presidential pardon.
“We are trying to accelerate the legal processes,” one official said. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster reportedly raised the matter during a late April visit to Pakistan where Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S. expressed the country’s desire “to find a solution.”
Afridi’s lawyer told reporters in 2016 the best hope for his release was U.S. pressure, but that the Obama administration had not shown their support. His lawyer continued that Afridi has languished for much of his sentence in solitary confinement.
“I have no hope of meeting him, no expectation for justice,” he said.
Congress has voted every year since 2011 to withhold millions of dollars in badly needed U.S. aid to Pakistan.
Trump pledged on the five year anniversary of bin Laden’s death that he would get the doctor released “in two minutes,” which drew sharp Pakistani criticism. “Contrary to Mr. Trump’s misconception, Pakistan is not a colony of the United States of America,” Pakistan’s interior minister said in a statement after Trump’s comments. He continued that Afridi’s future would be decided “by the Pakistani courts and the government of Pakistan and not by Mr. Donald Trump, even if he becomes the president of the United States.”