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June 23, 2017

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Lawyer pulls out of case of doctor who helped find bin Laden

PESHAWAR, Pakistan--The lawyer of a Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA find Osama bin Laden Saturday said he was withdrawing from the case after receiving threats against his life from militant groups.

"I have been receiving threats from militant outfits including Lashkar-e-Islam and the Taliban for quite some time but I kept working as defense lawyer on human rights grounds," defense lawyer Samiullah Afridi told AFP.

"However, a few people belonging to Taliban met me two days ago and asked me to disassociate from the case or be prepared to face serious consequences," he said.

When asked what that meant, he said: "In a tribal area where I am living, serious consequences means elimination ... I have decided after consulting my close friends to disassociate from the case."

Afridi was representing doctor Shakeel Afridi, who was convicted of treason under the country's tribal justice system for alleged ties to militants and jailed for 33 years in May 2012.

In March a Pakistani tribunal reduced the doctor's sentence by 10 years as well as reducing a fine of 320,000 rupees (US$3,200) to 220,000 rupees.

The lawyer had said his client would appeal against the decision as he wanted to have a new trial, as stipulated by the authorities last August.

Shakeel Afridi was arrested after U.S. troops killed al-Qaida chief bin Laden in May 2011 in the northwestern town of Abbottabad.

Islamabad branded the raid a violation of sovereignty and U.S. relations fell to an all-time low.

Afridi had been recruited by the CIA to run a vaccination program in Abbottabad in the hope of obtaining DNA samples to identify bin Laden, although medics never managed to gain access to the family.

He was convicted not for working for the CIA, for which the court said it had no jurisdiction — but for alleged ties to militants.

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