Shakil Afridi was imprisoned for giving care to militants
The Pakistani doctor who assisted the CIA in its hunt for Osama bin Laden was given a 33-year jail sentence not for aiding the US intelligence service but for providing medical care to banned terror groups, according to leaked legal documents.
According to a five-page verdict seen by Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, the administrator from the country’s tribal areas that tried and convicted Shakil Afridi did not even consider evidence that the doctor had conspired with the CIA on a fake vaccination programme.
Instead the quasi-legal process found Afridi guilty of “anti-state activities” relating to his alleged involvement with Mangal Bagh, the leader of Lashkar-i-Islam, a group that has fought against government forces.
The court document accused Afridi of giving the banned group nearly £14,000, providing medical care to various militant commanders and holding meetings with them shortly before attacks on government checkposts.
Dawn said the court argued Afridi’s work with the CIA fell outside its jurisdiction and that the former public health official should be tried again in a full court. He could face the death penalty if found guilty of a treason charge in a regular court.
Afridi, who as a doctor had unusual access to the forbidding tribal areas where a wide variety of Taliban and militant groups are based, is known to have been working as a CIA informant long before he became involved in the mission to find Bin Laden.
The fake vaccination campaign was designed to gain DNA samples from people within the compound in Abbottabad where the CIA strongly suspected Bin Laden was in hiding, in the hope of linking them with the former al-Qaida chief.
Afridi’s conviction under an antiquated process that dates back to the British Raj-era efforts to impose order on the tribal belt has caused consternation in the US where top officials have argued he should be treated as a hero.
The US Senate responded to his jail term by cutting $1m in aid to Pakistan for each year of his conviction.