Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday sharply criticized Pakistan for its "unjust and unwarranted" treatment of Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi, sentenced to prison for 33 years on treason charges for his pivotal role in helping to hunt down Osama bin Laden.
"The United States does not believe there is any basis for holding Dr. Afridi. We regret both the fact that he was convicted and the severity of his sentence," Clinton said as she met with New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully.
"His help, after all, was instrumental in taking down one of the world's most notorious murderers. That was clearly in Pakistan's interests as well as ours and the rest of the world," she said.
The doctor, 48, was reportedly sentenced to 33 years in prison and fined 320,000 Pakistani rupees, equivalent to about $3,477, by a tribal court.
Afridi had been accused of running a fake hepatitis B vaccination program, collecting DNA samples reportedly used by U.S. intelligence officers to track bin Laden to Abbottabad, where Navy SEALs killed him in a raid on his compound last year.
"This action by Dr. Afridi to help bring about the end of the reign of terror designed and executed by bin Ladin was not in any way a betrayal of Pakistan. And we have made that very well known and we will continue to press it with the government of Pakistan," Clinton said. "We are raising it and we will continue to do so because we think that his treatment is unjust and unwarranted."
The White House echoed Clinton's remarks, saying it saw "no basis" for his detention. "I think it's an important point that any assistance rendered by anyone in the effort to bring Osama bin Laden to justice was assistance not against Pakistan, but against al-Qaida and against Osama bin Laden," spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One.
In retaliation for the sentence, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted Thursday to cut aid to Pakistan by $33 million—$1 million per year of his sentence—Agence France-Presse reported.Read More »from Clinton scolds Pakistan for sentencing doctor who helped find bin Laden