A Pakistani doctor who helped in the CIA hunt for Osama bin Laden has been convicted of high treason and sentenced to 33 years in prison, according to local government officials.
By Rob Crilly, Nazar Ul Islam in Islamabad
The harsh sentence will provide ammunition to critics who believe that Pakistan is more intent on rounding up people who helped hunt for the world’s most wanted man — rather than those who hid him on Pakistani soil for five years.
And it will drive a further wedge between Islamabad and what remains of the country’s allies in Washington.
Dr Afridi was not present in court on Wednesday nor was he represented by a lawyer under the terms of the archaic British colonial laws which still govern Pakistan’s tribal belt.
“He has been sentenced for 33 years on treason charges and has been moved to Peshawar central jail after the verdict was announced by the local court,” said Mohammad Siddiq, spokesman for the administrative head of Khyber, where the case was heard.
The offences related to infringements of sovereignty and concealing plans to wage war against Pakistan.
Dr Afridi set up a fake hepatitis vaccination campaign in March last year, according to residents of Abbottabad.
Although the CIA had tracked an al-Qaeda courier to the three-storey villa they could not be sure that the tall figure, visible pacing up and down in satellite images, was bin Laden himself.
Intelligence officials believe Dr Afridi was recruited during a trip to the US in 2009 when he was out of work.
He had been kidnapped and then forced to flee his home in Bara, in Khyber Agency, by the Lashkar-e-Islam militant group, which accused him of botched operations.
After returning to Pakistan he took a government job as Khyber’s chief surgeon.
Last year, he rented a house in Abbottabad and hired a nurse to launch the vaccination ruse.
The idea was to obtain blood from bin Laden’s children so their DNA could be compared with a sample from the al-Qaeda leader’s sister who died in Boston in 2010.
Although he apparently failed to collect blood, he was able to secure a telephone number for Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, bin Laden’s trusted courier, enabling the CIA to confirm his identity.
By ISMAIL KHAN
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A Pakistani doctor who helped the Central Intelligence Agency pin down Osama bin Laden’s location under the cover of a vaccination drive was convicted on Wednesday of treason and sentenced to 33 years in prison, a senior official in Pakistan said.
A tribal court here in northwestern Pakistan found the doctor, Dr. Shakil Afridi, guilty of acting against the state, said Mutahir Zeb Khan, the administrator for the Khyber tribal region. Along with the prison term, the court imposed a fine of $3,500. Dr. Afridi, who may appeal the verdict, was then sent to Central Prison in Peshawar.