The White House declared Thursday that Pakistan had "no basis" for the harsh prison sentence decreed against Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi for his pivotal role in helping to track Osama bin Laden.
"We continue to see no basis for Dr. Afridi to be held," spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One. "I think it's an important point that any assistance rendered by anyone in the effort to bring Osama bin Laden to justice was assistance not against Pakistan, but against al-Qaida and against Osama bin Laden."
"We've raised the issue with the Pakistani government, and we continue to have conversations with them about it," Carney said amid congressional outrage at Afridi's treatment.
The doctor, 48, was reportedly sentenced to 33 years in prison and fined 320,000 Pakistani rupees, equivalent to about $3,477, by a tribal court.
Afridi had been accused of running a fake hepatitis B vaccination program, collecting DNA samples reportedly used by U.S. intelligence officers to track bin Laden to Abbottabad, where Navy SEALs killed him in a raid on his compound last year.
In retaliation, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted Thursday to cut aid to Pakistan by $33 million—$1 million per year of his sentence—Agence France-Presse reported.
The panel voted 30-0 for the reduction, a rare show of bipartisan anger at Pakistan. Relations between Washington and Islamabad frayed badly after the May 2011 Navy SEALs raid inside Pakistan that killed bin Laden. They worsened amid repeated American drone strikes to kill militants in Pakistan. And in November, Pakistan shut ground supply routes to NATO-led forces in Afghanistan after an American attack killed 24 Pakistani troops.
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