PESHAWAR — Pakistani authorities have sentenced a doctor accused of helping the CIA find Osama Bin Laden to 33 years in jail on charges of treason, officials said, a move almost certain to further strain ties between Washington and Islamabad.
Shakil Afridi was accused of running a fake vaccination campaign, in which he collected DNA samples, that is believed to have helped the American intelligence agency track down Bin Laden in a Pakistani town.
The Al-Qaeda chieftain was killed in a unilateral US special forces raid in the town of Abbottabad in May last year.
“Dr Shakil has been sentenced to 33 years imprisonment and a fine of 320,000 Pakistani rupees ($3,477),” said Mohammad Nasir, a government official in the northwestern city of Peshawar, where the jail term will be served. He gave no further details.
Afridi is the first person to be sentenced by Pakistani authorities in the Bin Laden case. No one has yet been charged for helping the Al-Qaeda leader take refuge in Pakistan.
The imprisonment will almost certainly anger ally Washington at a sensitive time, with both sides engaged in difficult talks over re-opening NATO supply routes to US-led troops in Afghanistan.
Senior US officials had made public appeals for Pakistan, a recipient of billions of dollars in American aid, to release Afridi, detained after the unilateral operation which killed Bin Laden and strained ties with Islamabad.
In January, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a television interview that Afridi and his team had been key in finding Bin Laden, describing him as helpful and insisting the doctor had not committed treason or harmed Pakistan.
US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher introduced legislation in February calling for Afridi to be granted American citizenship and said it was “shameful and unforgivable that our supposed allies” charged him. — Reuters