American aid worker Warren Weinstein is being held by al Qaeda
Alisa Weinstein says she's worried backlash over Bergdahl could hurt her father's case
She says she wants to know what the U.S. government is doing to bring him home
"They have shown with this exchange that...if they want to, they can do this," she says
Alisa Weinstein was thrilled when she heard about Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s release. She hopes her father will be next.
Gunmen abducted Warren Weinstein nearly three years ago from his home in Lahore, Pakistan. They posed as neighbors, offered food and then pistol-whipped the American aid worker and tied up his guards.
Now he’s being held by al Qaeda. And as political backlash over the controversial prisoner swap for Bergdahl grows, Weinstein’s daughter says her happiness for the soldier and his family has turned to worry.
“We started to realize that the administration is going to be a lot less likely to do this again if it causes some political problems for them,” she told CNN’s “AC360” on Wednesday. “So does that mean that the door is closed for us?”
For years, when Warren Weinstein’s case came up, U.S. officials called for his release but repeatedly said Washington wouldn’t bargain with al Qaeda.
Now, Alisa Weinstein says it’s clear that negotiating is an option.
“They have shown with this exchange that they can get this done. If they want to, they can do this,” she said. “So I know that they can do it for us and they can do it for others.”
Just as health was a concern for U.S. officials who negotiated Bergdahl’s release, Weinstein says she’s worried about her 72-year-old father’s health. He has a heart condition and severe asthma, she said, and a video of him released by al Qaeda on Christmas showed he’s suffering.
“It was clear from that video that he is not in good physical condition. He was incredibly pale and gaunt. His voice was weak. … My father is certainly not in good health,” she said.
Listening to Obama administration officials justify the swap by pointing out that Bergdahl was a soldier doesn’t ease her worries.
“My father is just as deserving of freedom as Sgt. Bergdahl, as are all of the Americans who are being held abroad,” she said. “You cannot distinguish between these hostages. … They can’t just pick and choose, decide that it works to get one person out and then leave everybody else there.”
Just a few months after Weinstein’s capture, al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri released a recording claiming the terror group was holding Weinstein – and demanding, among other things, an end to airstrikes by the United States.
He described the captive as “a former employee and a current contractor working with the U.S. government in its aid program to Pakistan, which aims to fight the jihad in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and just like the Americans arrest any suspect linked to al Qaeda and the Taliban, even if they were far related.”
Weinstein was employed by J.E. Austin Associates Inc., a U.S. consulting firm based in Arlington, Virginia, that is a USAID contractor. He is a world-renowned development expert, according to the company’s website.
In the video al Qaeda released of him in December, Warren Weinstein said he felt abandoned.
“Nine years ago, I came to Pakistan to help my government and I did so at a time when most Americans would not come here,” he said. “And now, when I need my government, it seems I have been totally abandoned and forgotten.”
CNN’s Randi Kaye, Moni Basu and Ed Payne contributed to this report.
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