'Osama doc' goes hungry over ban on meeting family, lawyers

Last Updated: Thu, Nov 29, 2012 09:16 hrs

Peshawar: Pakistani doctor, Shakil Afridi, who helped the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) hunt down Osama bin Laden, has started a hunger strike in his jail cell this week to protest against his living conditions and the ban on meeting his family and lawyers, prison officials have said.

Afridi was sentenced 33 years in jail in May for his links to a banned militant group. The decision was widely seen as punishment for helping the CIA find the al-Qaeda leader, and has led to strained ties between Washington and Islamabad, reports The Express Tribune.

Jail officials in Peshawar said they are keeping Afridi in solitary confinement and will not allow him to have visitors nor speak to anyone by telephone as punishment for a media interview he gave in September.

"After the interview in which Dr. Shakil Afridi leveled serious allegations against the country's top spy agency, the prison authorities barred his family members and lawyers from meeting him. In protest, Dr Shakil has begun a hunger strike for an indefinite period," said an official.

An investigation following the September interview found that Afridi had bribed guards to use their cell phones to speak to journalists, family and friends, making a total of 58 calls, the official said. Six prison guards have been suspended over the issue.

US officials have hailed Afridi, aged in his 40s, as a hero for helping pinpoint Bin Laden's location before the May 2011 raid that killed the al-Qaeda leader.

Afridi's family and lawyers maintain he was not guilty of any wrongdoing. 

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