The lawyer for the Pakistani doctor who helped the US find Osama bin Laden said yesterday he would not represent him any longer after facing threats from militants, even as America pushes for him to be freed.
Lawyer Samiullah Khan Afridi said he made the decision after he received what he described as a "final" warning from militants. Afridi said he represented Dr Shakil Afridi on humanitarian grounds, but could not continue. The two Afridis are not related.
"Now they have warned me to either quit the case or be ready to face the dire consequences," Afridi said. "My family and I are under severe threat."
The lawyer also said the undue US pressure on Pakistan for his client's release also hurt him.
Afridi was initially sentenced to 33 years in prison in May 2012 after being convicted of providing money and medical treatment to Islamic militants in the Khyber tribal region - not for helping the CIA track down bin Laden. His family and the militants have denied the allegations. A court later reduced Afridi's sentence to 23 years on appeal.
Afridi is widely believed to have been targeted by Pakistani authorities for running the vaccination programme that collected DNA to try to verify bin Laden's presence in Abbottabad.
US commandos killed bin Laden in a raid in 2011, angering and embarrassing Pakistan's government. In their eyes, Afridi is a traitor who collaborated with a foreign spy agency in an illegal operation on Pakistani soil.
Afridi has denied helping the CIA, though US lawmakers have confirmed he had a role in the hunt for bin Laden.