Pak tribunal rejects appeal of doc who tracked bin Laden

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Pak tribunal rejects appeal of doc who tracked bin Laden
Islamabad/Peshawar, Dec 18: A Pakistani tribunal today rejected the appeal of Shakeel Afridi, the doctor arrested for helping the US track down al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, against his sentence.

The three-member FATA Tribunal, which includes Shah Waliullah, Akbar Khan and Pir Fida, has remanded the case to Commissioner, Frontier Crime Regulations. In its judgment‚ the tribunal directed the Commissioner, FCR to review his verdict in the case and remove ambiguities. Afridi had petitioned the FATA Tribunal in October seeking fresh trial with regard to the charges levelled against him, lifting of the ban on his bail and conducting the trial at the Central Prison in Peshawar.

The doctor, who was arrested immediately after the May 2, 2011 operation by US commandos that killed then al-Qaeda leader bin Laden, was convicted for treason over alleged ties to banned militant group Lashkar-e-Islam. On August 29, a judicial official had overturned the 33-year jail sentence of Afridi, who was sentenced in May, 2012 on charges of colluding with Lashkar-e-Islam.

FCR Commissioner Sahibzada Mohammad Anees had ruled that a judge in the tribal belt had exceeded his authority when he handed down the sentence last year. He had ordered a fresh trial and had said it would be heard by the Political Agent. However, the doctor filed a seven-page revision petition in which he submitted that there was ambiguity in the order of FCR commissioner.

He approached the FATA Tribunal, an appellate court in FCR, to clear the ambiguity so that the political agent is directed to not only conduct fresh and fair trial in his case, but also remove the ban on his bail during the trial. The petitioner had requested the tribunal to direct the political agent to make fresh order of reference and refer the case to a new jirga with the consent of the accused. He said the trial court must summon the jirga members and the witnesses in his presence and the trial court must pass a just and reasonable order in the case.

Due to threat to his life, Afridi requested the FATA Tribunal to direct the political agent to conduct the trial at the Peshawar Central Prison where he is currently lodged. Bin Laden was killed in the unilateral US commando raid in Abbottabad, sending bilateral relations into a tailspin and embarrassing Pakistan's powerful military.

It is said that Afridi ran a fake vaccination camp to gain access to bin Laden's family but legal experts and rights activists have challenged his sentence. The US has also been pressing Pakistan to release Afridi. 

PTI

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