33 years jail sentence for helping CIA track Osama Bin Laden
WASHINGTON/ ISLAMABAD – The United States has threatened to cut aid to Islamabad following the sentencing of a Pakistani surgeon who was awarded 33 years in jail for helping the CIA track Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Pakistani doctor Shakeel Afridi was convicted of high treason by a four-member tribal court in the semi autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
Afridi was not present in the court Wednesday nor was he represented by a lawyer under the terms of the archaic British colonial laws which still govern Pakistan’s tribal belt. The court also imposed a fine of $3,480 on him. Afridi ran a vaccination programme for the CIA to collect DNA and verify Bin Laden’s presence at the compound in the town of Abbottabad where US Navy SEALS killed the Al Qaida chief May 2, 2011.
The secret CIA operation outraged Pakistani officials. Afridi was arrested by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) two weeks after the Al Qaeda leader’s death. The US government said Pakistan had no basis to sentence Afridi, who served the interests of the two nations in their joint war against terror. ”Anyone who supported the United States in finding Osama bin Laden was not working against Pakistan, they were working against Al Qaeda,” Pentagon press secretary George Little said.
Senators Carl Levin and John McCain, of the Senate Armed Services Committee, demanded the Pakistani doctor be pardoned and freed “immediately”.
The verdict to jail him could put US financial assistance to Pakistan at risk, they said in a statement. ”What Afridi did is the furthest thing from treason. It was a courageous, heroic and patriotic act which helped to locate the most wanted terrorist in the world a mass murderer who had the blood of many innocent Pakistanis on his hands.”
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had earlier raised concerns with Pakistan about the case. “Our views on it haven’t changed. We continue to see no basis for Afridi We will continue to make those representations to the government of Pakistan,” Nuland said.