PESHAWAR: A Fata (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) tribunal, hearing a review petition seeking Dr Shakil Afridi’s release on bail and a fresh trial to enable him to defend himself against the charge of supporting a banned organisation, sought on Wednesday record of the case.
The petition filed by Dr Afridi challenges an order of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) commissioner setting aside his earlier conviction by an assistant political agent and remanding the case back to Khyber Agency’s political agent to assess again arguments of prosecution and defence under law and Rewaj (local custom).
The order said that he should not be released on bail till the conclusion of the case.
Dr Afridi, who is in solitary confinement in the Peshawar Central Prison since his conviction and sentencing, said that he had challenged the order because it was vague and sought clear directives from the political agent/sessions judge.
The case has come to limelight because the issue of Dr Afridi’s detention was raised by President Barack Obama during a meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif this month.
Dr Afridi was picked up allegedly by an intelligence agency in May 2011 on suspicion that he had helped the CIA to trace Osama bin Laden by carrying out a fake polio vaccination campaign in Abbottabad. But he was not convicted on that charge.
The assistant political agent/additional district magistrate convicted him on May 23, 2012 of being involved in anti-state activities and supporting the Bara-based Lashkar-i-Islam and sentenced him to 33-year imprisonment.
FCR Commissioner Sahibzada Anees accepted part of his plea and on Aug 29, 2013, set aside his conviction and remanded the case back to the political agent.
Dr Afridi stated in the petition that when his counsel approached the trial court after the order of the commissioner they were informed that the case would be decided afresh after arguments of prosecution and defence.
He said that he had been denied his legal rights to defend himself through a counsel and cross-examine witnesses.
Now that case had been remanded back to the political agent to hear it as a sessions judge, he said, he was bound under the law to refer it to a new jirga (council of elders) with his consent and record the statements of the jirga members and witnesses in his presence before issuing an order.
The tribunal, which is the third and final judicial forum under the FCR and comprises its chairman Shah Wali Khan and member Pir Fida, deferred hearing till Nov 5.
The petitioner is represented by a panel of lawyers, including Abdul Lateef Afridi, Samiullah Afridi and Qamar Nadeem Afridi.