Pak doctor gets 33 years in jail for helping CIA find Osama

Osama Bin Laden
Islamabad, May 23: A Pakistani doctor who ran a fake vaccination campaign for the CIA to help find Osama bin Laden was sentenced to 33 years of rigorous imprisonment for committing treason under harsh British-era tribal laws.

The court of the Assistant Political Agent at Bara in the Khyber tribal region further directed Shakeel Afridi to pay a fine of Rs 320,000 after finding him guilty of "spying on al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden without bringing it to the notice of the government of Pakistan", state-run APP news agency reported.

The court, presided over by Assistant Political Agent Nasir Khan, heard arguments from both sides and sought consent of the local tribal 'jirga' or council before convicting Afridi under the Frontier Crimes Regulation for "involvement in anti-state activities".

The FCR is a harsh British era law that is applicable only in Pakistan's tribal belt. The court ruled that if Afridi failed to pay the fine, he would undergo rigorous imprisonment for a further three-and-half years. Afridi was later sent to the Central Jail in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Officials said Afridi was convicted under various provisions of the law related to offences against the state, attempt to wage war against Pakistan and working against the country's sovereignty.

Reports said Afridi was not present in court or given a chance to defend himself. The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government had sacked Afridi two months ago for his involvement in a fake vaccination survey to trace bin Laden. 

Critics said it was unusual that Afridi had been tried under a law applicable only in the tribal areas though his alleged offence was committed within Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. They said a trial in the northwestern province could have attracted greater media scrutiny.

According to media reports, Afridi had conducted a fake vaccination campaign in the neighbourhood of the garrison town of Abbottabad where bin Laden was eventually killed during a unilateral US military raid on May 2 last year.

Afridi had sent a nurse to bin Laden's fortified compound with the intention of gathering DNA samples so that the CIA could establish the identity of the people living within.

According to some reports, Afridi had also helped American operatives by speaking on the phone to one of bin Laden's trusted couriers. The doctor had worked for many years as a surgeon in the lawless Khyber Agency in the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

In January, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta had confirmed that Afridi had worked for US intelligence by collecting DNA to verify bin Laden's presence and expressed concern about Pakistan's treatment of him.

Afridi was arrested shortly after US commandos killed the al-Qaeda leader and a Pakistani commission probing the raid against bin Laden recommended in October that the doctor should be tried for treason.


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