Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Legal respite for doctor who helped CIA find Osama bin Laden

Pakistan yesterday overturned a 33-year jail sentence handed down to a doctor who helped CIA agents find Al Qaeda's leader, Osama bin Laden, a decision that may result in a new trial.

PESHAWAR // Pakistan yesterday overturned a 33-year jail sentence handed down to a doctor who helped CIA agents find Al Qaeda's leader, Osama bin Laden, a decision that may result in a new trial.

Shakil Afridi, hailed a hero by United States officials, was arrested after US special forces killed bin Laden in May 2011 in the town of Abbottabad, in a secret raid that outraged Pakistan and strained relations between the strategic allies.

Mr Afridi's conviction in 2012 further soured the atmosphere. US senators withheld US$33 million (Dh121.21m) in aid in retaliation.

Pakistani officials initially said Mr Afridi was charged with treason for helping the US, but court documents showed he was jailed for being a member of a militant group, Lashkar-e-Islam.

A senior judicial official, Sahibzada Mohammad Anees, overturned the ruling yesterday on the grounds that another official had exceeded his authority when handing down last year's sentence.

"The assistant political agent ... did not have the authority to award 33 years' imprisonment to Dr Shakil Afridi," he wrote. "The assistant political agent played the role of a magistrate, for which he was not authorised."

Mr Afridi was not present at yesterday's hearing in the city of Peshawar and remains in custody.

A political agent and his assistant are representatives of the Pakistani government in the semiautonomous tribal areas, which are not covered by the country's judicial system.

Mr 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.

Relations between Pakistan and the US have since slowly improved, but residual distrust lingers.

A new trial would raise the prospect of his release but if he were freed, Mr Afridi would probably have to leave Pakistan. Militant groups have long threatened to kill him, and Pakistani authorities have said they feared for his life even in jail.

His lawyer, Samiullah Afridi, said Mr Afridi planned to submit an application for an early hearing. He would also be allowed to use lawyers in the next trial, a legal privilege he was previously denied. Mr Afridi has denied the charges against him, and a spokesman for the militant group said it had no ties with him.

"Shakil was himself kidnapped by militants," Mr Afridi's lawyer said. "He had to pay a lot of money for his release. There is no question that a person like him would treat with militants or give them funds."

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National