x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Pakistan doctor in bin Laden case jailed for militant link, not helping CIA

A Pakistani doctor who helped the United States find Osama bin Laden was jailed for aiding militants and not for links to the CIA, as Pakistani officials had said, according to a court document.

PESHAWAR // A Pakistani doctor who helped the United States find Osama bin Laden was jailed for aiding militants and not for links to the CIA, as Pakistani officials had said, according to a court document released yesterday.

Last week, a court in the Khyber tribal region jailed Shakil Afridi for 33 years. Pakistani officials had said that the decision was based on treason charges against him for aiding the CIA in its hunt for the Al Qaeda leader.

In the latest twist, the judgment document made available to the media states that Afridi was jailed because of his close ties to the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Islam, which amounts to waging war against the state.

It was unclear why Pakistani officials first said Afridi was jailed over his links to the CIA. The government may have wanted to show a largely anti-American public that Pakistan will not tolerate any cooperation with the American spy agency, according to an analyst.

"There was a lot of friction because of this case with the United States. This appears to be an effort to patch things up with the United States, while also satisfying the people of Pakistan that Afridi has been punished," said Mansur Mehsud, the director for research at the FATA Research Center, an independent think tank based in Islamabad.

While the document stated there was evidence that Afridi "has been shown acting with other foreign intelligence agencies", it noted the court in Khyber had no jurisdiction to act on that.

One of the doctor's lawyers, Samiullah Afridi, was baffled after reading the verdict.

"These charges against him are very different from the ones we were told earlier," he said.

"The earlier allegations against him were very serious. We deal with issues like this every day in the courts, of people accused of helping militant groups. So it's not that big an issue for us to defend."

Afridi's brother, Jamil, described the treason charges as baseless and said the doctor was being made a scapegoat.

Some Pakistani authorities yesterday said that they feared the doctor could be killed and demanded he be transferred to a more secure facility than the one in Peshawar.

* With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse