Pakistan jails doctor for helping CIA find bin Laden
Shakil Afridi was accused of running a fake vaccination campaign believed to have helped the American intelligence agency track bin Laden in a Pakistani town, where he was killed in a U.S. Special Forces raid last May.
“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.
The imprisonment is likely to anger ally Washington at a sensitive time, with both sides engaged in difficult talks over re-opening NATO supply routes to U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan.
Senior U.S. 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, U.S. 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.
The U.S. raid that killed bin Laden in the garrison town of Abbottabad, just a few hours drive from the capital Islamabad, humiliated Pakistan’s powerful military, which described the move as a violation of sovereignty.
Intelligence cooperation between the United States and Pakistan, vital for the fight against militancy, has subsequently been cut drastically.
Afridi’s prison term could complicate efforts to break a deadlock in talks over the re-opening of supply routes through Pakistan to U.S.-led NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Pakistan closed the supply routes, seen as vital to the planned withdrawal of most foreign troops from Afghanistan before the end of 2014, in protest against last November’s killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a NATO air attack along the Afghan border.