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IBAHRI Calls for Protection of Lawyers in Pakistan following the Murder of Samiullah Afridi

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) condemns unequivocally the murder of lawyer Samiullah Afridi on 17 March 2015, who was reportedly shot dead in an attack by uniden­tified assailants while on his way home in Peshawar, Pakistan.

In 2013, Samiullah Afridi stated that he had received several death threats from militant groups and various or­ganisations. For his own safety, and that of his family, he fled Pakistan briefly. It is believed he was targeted due to his in­volvement representing Paki­stani doctor Shakil Afridi (no relation), who, it is alleged, ran a false vaccination campaign aimed at gathering DNA sam­ples from the Abbottabad com­pound where the then wanted leader of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, was in hiding. It is be­lieved that this DNA campaign assisted the United States intel­ligence agency, the CIA, in their search for, and subsequent as­sassination, of bin Laden. The ensuing trial of Dr Afridi con­cluded in May 2012, with him being sentenced to 33 years in prison. Commentators are con­vinced that Dr Afridi was not convicted on the DNA samples allegations, but rather as pun­ishment for what is perceived as aiding the CIA. The sentence was overturned in 2013. He is currently awaiting a new trial.

In 2014, Mr Afridi stopped representing Dr Afridi due to the numerous death threats he had received.

IBAHRI Co-Chair Hans Corell commented: ‘The IBAH­RI is extremely shocked and saddened by the reported death of Mr Samiullah Afridi. The at­tack on lawyers in Pakistan in the course of their profession is a matter of grave concern. It weakens the justice system which should guarantee the in dependence of lawyers in the discharge of their professional duties without any improper restrictions, pressures or inter­ference. These developments are particularly worrying in light of recent reports of the attempted murder of human rights lawyer Shahbaz Gor­mani in December of last year.’

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