PESHAWAR - The Fata Tribunal on Wednesday discharged the appeal petition of Dr Shakil Afridi for a fresh trial and sent the case back to Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) commissioner, saying his retrial order was “ambiguous” and needed clarification.
In its short verdict, a 3-member bench of Fata Tribunal headed by Shah Wali Khan said in the written judgment that the August ruling of FCR commissioner was “ambiguous and self-contradictory” and directed the commissioner to issue a fresh order to clarify matters.
The tribunal announced its reserved verdict after hearing arguments of Afridi’s lawyers Samiullah Khan Afridi and Qamar Nadeem Afridi and Special Prosecutor Iqbal Noorani. “The tribunal has asked him to remove ambiguities from his order and make a clear decision and send it back to us,” tribunal chairman Shah Wali Khan told reporters after issuing the order.
Afridi’s brother Jamil condemned Wednesday’s ruling, accusing the authorities of manipulating the case to keep the doctor in custody. “The government just want to delay his case as much as it can. They want him to stay in jail,” Afridi told AFP by telephone. “It is a very simple case and the government stand is very weak, that’s why they planted a murder case against the doctor.”
On May 23, 2012, the accused doctor was sentenced 33 years in prison and imposed a fine of Rs320,000 by a local court presided over by Bara Assistant Political Agent Nasir Khan for his alleged involvement in anti-state activities and colluding with banned outfit Lashkar-i-Islam (LI). But, on August 29, FCR commissioner had set aside the 33-years conviction of Dr Afridi and sent the case to the political agent of Khyber Agency for re-trial.
Lawyers for the doctor challenged the August ruling made by FCR commissioner in Fata Tribunal. They sought bail for Afridi and argued that the retrial should involve a complete re-investigation of the case including hearing and cross-examining witnesses again, and not simply a reconsideration of the existing evidence.
The lawyers for the petitioner submitted that the political agent of Khyber Agency had refused to conduct fresh trial and had announced that he would decide the case on the basis of the old inquiry report. They also requested the tribunal to conduct fresh trial at the Central Prison Peshawar, citing serious threat to the life of Dr Afridi.
Special Public Prosecutor Iqbal Durrani submitted that the accused had challenged a partial decision of the FCR commissioner in the revision petition, which is non-maintainable. He added that the petitioner has challenged the points that were against him and not those in his favour, and prayed to dismiss the petition.
The tribunal after hearing arguments, examining judgment of FCR commissioner and facts of the case, remanded the review appeal of Dr Afridi back to the commissioner with direction of more clarification and disposed the appeal of the accused.
Dr Afridi was arrested after US troops killed al-Qaeda chief bin Laden in May 2011 in the northwestern town of Abbottabad. Islamabad branded the raid a violation of sovereignty and US relations fell to an all-time low. Afridi had been recruited by the CIA to run a fake vaccination programme in Abbottabad in the hope of obtaining DNA samples to identify bin Laden, although medics never managed to gain access to the family.
However, he was convicted not for working for the CIA, for which the court said it had no jurisdiction – but for alleged ties to militants. Angry lawmakers in the US saw the original sentence as retaliation for the bin Laden raid and threatened to freeze millions of dollars in vital aid to Pakistan. The then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced Afridi’s treatment as “unjust and unwarranted”.
Last month Pakistan authorities unexpectedly charged Afridi with murder and fraud over the death of a patient some six years earlier. Under the tribal justice system, Afridi faces a life sentence if convicted in the murder case. Punishment for fraud is seven years in jail, his lawyer said.