Sunday 25 February 2018

US cuts Pakistan aid in protest at jailing of doctor

Jon Swaine in Washington

THE US is to cut $33m (€26m) from the aid sent to Pakistan in response to the jailing of a Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA in its hunt for Osama bin Laden.

In a fresh blow to the troubled relationship between the two "war on terror" allies, the Senate appropriations committee voted to cut $1m from the $800m annual budget for each of the 33 years that Dr Shakeel Afridi has been told he must serve in jail for working with a foreign intelligence agency.

Dr Afridi set up a fake vaccination campaign in Abbottabad in an attempt to obtain blood samples from Bin Laden's family as the CIA tried to confirm the al-Qa'ida chief's presence in a nearby villa.

Dr Afridi is expected to appeal against his sentence. The handling of the case has been criticised by the US, where many suspect that Pakistan has, at best, dragged its feet over seeking out foreign militants and at worst has actively protected al-Qa'ida figures.

Hiding

Dr Afridi is being held in solitary confinement at Peshawar Central Prison, in north-west Pakistan. Officials said he was "weak and depressed".

His wife and three children have disappeared from their home in the Khyber tribal area and are believed to be in hiding.

A Pakistani government spokesman yesterday insisted that the US should respect the conviction because "it was in accordance with Pakistani laws and the Pakistani courts". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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