Pakistani doctor’s conviction not linked to bin Laden, court says
By the CNN Wire Staff
May 30, 2012 — Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
- Tribal court judgment says Shakeel Afridi had ties to Lashkar-e-Islam
- Officials disclosed earlier that the doctor was convicted for spying
- He was accused of helping find Osama bin Laden through a fake vaccination program
- The doctor’s 33-year sentence further strained U.S.-Pakistani relations
Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) — His conviction further strained U.S.-Pakistan relations, but court papers say that Shakeel Afridi’s crime was not what it was widely thought to be.
The Pakistani doctor was jailed for his ties to extremists, not for helping the CIA track down Osama bin Laden, according to a tribal court judgment issued last week and obtained by CNN Wednesday.
The Khyber Agency court said Afridi had “close links” with Lashkar-e-Islam, a militant group operating in the Khyber tribal areas, and its leader Mangal Bagh.
The Khyber tribal court described Lashkar-e-Islam as a defunct group whose intent was to “wage war against the state of Pakistan” with killings of officials and attacks on government facilities.
“These attacks were planned in the office of the accused,” the judgment said, referring to Afridi.
The judgment said Afridi provided financial assistance to Lashkar-e-Islam and medical assistance to the group’s commanders.
Afridi’s brother Jamil Afridi said the allegations are false and the family is worried. Shakeel Afridi has been in custody for more than a year.
“We can’t see him. We don’t know how he is doing,” Jamil Afridi said.
He said the court accused his brother of helping Mangal Bagh but that it was the militant leader who kidnapped the doctor for ransom money.
“My brother didn’t do anything against Pakistan,” he said. “If he helped the U.S. it was for the benefit of Pakistan. The American government should help us in any way it can.”
Afridi was sentenced to 33 years in prison. Officials had told CNN he was charged with treason for spying for the United States. He was accused of helping the CIA locate bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad through a fake vaccination campaign.
Bin Laden was killed in the subsequent U.S. raid on the compound in May last year.
At least one legal analyst said Afridi’s sentence is a sham.
Islamabad-based lawyer Shahzad Akbar questioned the legitimacy of the court proceedings since the punishment was handed down by a tribal court in Khyber even though the alleged offense occurred in Abbottabad.
The Afridi verdict sparked anger in the United States and further strained relations between Washington and Islamabad. The tensions surfaced as Congress debated aid to Pakistan in several bills.
In the National Defense Authorization Act, senators agreed last week to withhold Pakistan’s part of a $1.75 billion aid package because of outrage over Afridi’s case and the continued blockade of NATO supply routes into and out of Afghanistan.
Another bill in the Senate Appropriations Committee withheld $33 million in aid to Pakistan for similar reasons.
Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said cutting aid is a U.S. prerogative but added: “I think the U.S. should not forget we are a victim in this war on terror and we’re suffering for the international community, too.”
CNN’s Reza Sayah contributed to this report.
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