A COURT IN PAKISTAN has convicted a doctor who helped the CIA to trace Osama bin Laden of conspiring against the state.
Dr Shakil Afridi, who ran a vaccination programme for the CIA with the intention of collecting DNA to confirm bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad, has been sentenced to 33 years in prison.
Bin Laden was killed by US Navy SEALs during a raid at the compound in Abbottabad just over a year ago.
The raid was carried out without the prior consent of or assistance from the Pakistani government, and it seriously damaged relations between the two countries. Afridi’s conviction and sentencing are likely to compound issues between the US and Pakistan.
Pakistan army and spy chiefs were outraged by the US raid in Abbottabad, which led to international suspicion that they had been harbouring the al-Qaida chief. Authorities in Pakistan viewed Afridi as a traitor who had collaborated with a foreign spy agency in an illegal operation on Pakistan’s soil.
Afridi, in his 50s, was detained sometime after the raid, but the start of his trial was never publicised.
He was tried under the Frontier Crimes Regulations, or FCR — the set of laws that govern Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal region. Human rights organisations have criticised the FCR for not providing suspects the right to legal representation, to present material evidence, or to cross-examine witnesses. Verdicts are handled by a government official in consultation with a council of elders.
Afridi was tried in the Khyber tribal region, where he was raised. In addition to the prison term, he was ordered to pay a fine of about $3,500 and is subject to an additional three and a half years in prison if he does not, according to Nasir Khan, a government official in Khyber.
Afridi can appeal the verdict within two months, said Iqbal Khan, another Khyber government official.
The verdict came days after a NATO summit in Chicago that was overshadowed by tensions between the two countries that are threatening American hopes of an orderly end to the war in Afghanistan and withdrawal of its combat troops by 2014.
Islamabad was invited in expectation it would reopen supply lines for NATO and US troops to Afghanistan it has blocked for nearly six months to protest US airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani troops on the Afghan border. But it did not reopen the routes, and instead repeated demands for an apology from Washington for the airstrikes.
- Additional reporting by Susan Ryan