In a surprise move, Pakistani regional officials lifted the ban on relatives and lawyers visiting Shakil Afridi, the doctor who has been jailed ever since he helped the CIA pinpoint the compound where Usama bin Laden was hiding in advance of the 2011 raid that killed the terror mastermind.
The move, by the provincial government of Pakistan’s northwest region, came after U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbin met with Pakistani leaders earlier this week. Family members, who have long expressed concerns for Afridi’s health and safety, and legal representatives, who have been cut off from their client, will now be able to see him once a month.
“I am very happy, and will go to see my brother next week,” Jamil Afridi, who has appealed to the government and courts for access to his brother, told FoxNews.com.
Afridi has been kept isolated inside Peshawar Prison for nearly nine months since he spoke exclusively from inside prison to Fox News, detailing his affection for America and his capture by Pakistan’s spy agency following the Navy SEAL raid.
Following that interview, authorities revoked several privileges from Afridi and barred his lawyers and family members from visits. Two prison guards were arrested and a senior prison official was sacked for allegedly providing Afridi cell phones.
An official requesting anonymity who spoke to Afridi’s lawyer said a notification of the change had been sent from Home and Tribal Affair’s department to prison officials. However Jamil Afridi said he hasn’t received an official notice.
“I haven’t received anything in writing, but am told that only I will be allowed in to see him,” the imprisoned man’s brother said. He believes it was a combined effort of his appeal to Pakistan’s chief justice, foreign media and Afridi’s many U.S. supporters.
On a phone call from Pakistan, Jamil Afridi thanked Free Afridi campaign activists and asked them to carry a message to Washington for him.
“Please tell Obama and [Secretary of State John] Kerry to help free my brother,” he said. “He means everything to me.”
Hollywood power couple Robert Lorsch, chairman and CEO of MMR Global, a company specializing in health records, and his wife Kira, an actress, have been spearheading a campaign to help free the hero doctor.
Lorsch told FoxNews.com that the breakthrough was also due to his several meetings with U.S. and Pakistani officials last week, in which he urged them to negotiate and secure the doctor’s release. He has made winning Afridi’s release his cause, and has pledged to give the doctor a job with his company.
“There seems to be a light at the end of the Tunnel,” Lorsch said. “If Pakistan wants to have its loan from IMF (International Monetary Fund), the only way they can get that support is by freeing Doctor Afridi.”
Pakistan is expected to ask IMF for a bailout package of up to $6 billion with no strings attached to revive its dire economy. Headquartered in Washington, the agency’s largest stakeholder is the U.S.
Jamil Afridi said he and his brother will happily bring their families to live in America once Shakil Afridi is released.
“The day he is freed, we all will leave if the United States is willing to keep us,” Jamil Afridi said.