Pakistani Doctor Jailed for Militant Ties, Not Helping CIA

Posted May 30th, 2012 at 2:05 pm (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

The Pakistani doctor who helped the United States track down Osama bin Laden was jailed last week not for working with the CIA, but for ties to militants.

A tribal court last week convicted Shakil Afridi to 33 years in prison. Afridi was accused of running a fake vaccination campaign to help the CIA obtain DNA samples of the al-Qaida leader and members of his family to confirm bin Laden's presence at a compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. U.S. special forces killed bin Laden in a raid last May.

A court document released Wednesday and obtained by VOA shows that the tribal court in the northwestern Khyber agency convicted Afridi of assisting militants in the region. The judgement says the doctor met with commanders of the banned militant Lashkar-e-Islam, giving them medical treatment and financial help.

The document also says an investigation report contains evidence that Afridi collaborated with foreign intelligence agencies, but that the court in Khyber has no jurisdiction to act on the evidence. The tribal court recommended that such evidence may be produced before an appropriate court for further proceedings.

Afridi's brother, Jamil Afridi, said this week that Shakil did not get a fair trial and vowed to appeal the verdict. In an interview with VOA, Jamil Afridi also expressed concerns about his brother's detention, saying he should be given protection inside prison.

Earlier this week, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called Afridi's action a “serious offense” but said he had a right to a fair trial.

The United States has criticized Afridi's conviction and called for his release. The verdict comes during a period of tense relations between the U.S. and Pakistan. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has suggested the decision to jail the Pakistani doctor would hurt efforts to repair ties between Islamabad and Washington.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Wednesday that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been “very clear” in her remarks that there is no basis to hold Afridi. He said the State Department is seeking clarity from Islamabad on the court document, which seems “to contrast previous reports of the basis” of Afridi's conviction.

U.S. officials are in talks with the Pakistani government to get Islamabad to reopen the NATO supply route into Afghanistan. Pakistan shut down the supply lines after coalition airstrikes mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani troops near the Afghan border last November.