US reiterates call for 'Osama doc' Afridi's release after hunger strike announcement

Washington, Nov. 30 (ANI): Reiterating the call for Shakil Afridi's release, US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland has said that America believes that the Pakistani doctor should never have been arrested in the first place.

"We want to see Dr Shakil Afridi released and safe. Dr Shakil Afridi should never have been locked up to begin with," The Express Tribune quoted Nuland, as saying.

Nuland's statement came a day after Dr Afridi started an indefinite hunger strike for to protest against his living conditions and the ban on meeting his family and lawyers.

Dr Afridi, who had helped the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) hunt down Osama bin Laden, was sentenced to 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.

Nuland said the prosecution and conviction of Dr Afridi sends the wrong message, especially in light of the shared interest in taking down a terrorist.

She said the US have made their views well known to Pakistan and the public at large.

She added that the US is having a series of working group meetings with Pakistan, which will give the US a chance to raise their concerns over the matter.

Recently the US Senate allowed a proposed bill to be placed on its calendar for hearing which subjects payment of millions of dollars in counterinsurgency funds for Pakistan to the release of Dr Afridi among other conditions. (ANI)