Congressman worried case of jailed Pakistani doc falling through the cracks
Washington, Jun 19 - The California congressman who's made the plight of jailed Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi a personal cause said Monday he's concerned the case has fallen off the radar screen -- and that without U.S. intervention, the man credited with helping track Usama bin Laden will be left to "suffer in a dungeon."
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., was among the many U.S. officials outraged last month after Afridi was sentenced to 33 years in prison.
But little has been heard of his case since that time.
"It doesn't appear that other people are taking this case seriously," Rohrabacher said. "I don't see any movement" by Congress or the Obama administration.
Rohrabacher told FoxNews.com that he's "frantically" trying to keep people focused on it, and claimed officials are not prioritizing the case -- which he said reflects poorly on American values.
"If we let that person just hang on a limb and forget him, now that he's put himself in danger for us -- well shame on us," the Republican congressman said. "I am very concerned that the United States will shame itself by letting Dr. Afridi sit there and suffer in a dungeon, and be tortured."
Afridi's brother Jamil told Fox News last month that Shakil Afridi had suffered torture while in custody ahead of his sentencing. At the time, Jamil Afridi appealed for the U.S. Embassy to help fight his legal case.
The State Department says it's still focused on the case.
Spokesman Mark Toner told FoxNews.com in an email that "we continue to urge Pakistan to consider his appeal in a manner that is expeditious, transparent and consistent with due process."
"We consider his treatment and his sentencing to be among the range of important issues we are in the midst of discussing with the Pakistani (government)," he said.
U.S. negotiators recently pulled out of Pakistan, after being unable to reach an agreement over supply lines into Afghanistan that have been closed since a friendly fire incident last year in which a NATO strike killed 24 Pakistanis.
Toner, though, said talks over supply lines and Afridi are "unrelated."
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland also said at a briefing last week that the U.S. has "not been able to be in contact" with Afridi. She noted it would "not be traditional" for the Pakistani government to grant access.
Rohrabacher, though, said the U.S. should "flat-out" demand his release, let alone an appeal, and take a tougher stance.
"Instead of walking on eggs, we should be stepping on their toes," he said. The congressman questioned how the U.S. would enlist the support of foreign informants in the future if Afridi is left behind.
Questions continue to surround the Afridi case. A judgment released after his sentencing claimed he was imprisoned for militant ties. The militant group, though, later denied any link to the doctor.
Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, a former military intelligence officer, said it's critical for the U.S. to extract Afridi from Pakistan, somehow, in part to send a message to other potential informants.
"Any time we commit to a foreign national, the idea of 'you help us, we will be there for you' -- that's a sacred oath," Shaffer said. "We owe it to the man, in some form, to get him and his family out."
Shaffer said he hopes "other avenues of negotiation" can be established with the Pakistanis.
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