PESHAWAR: A Pakistani doctor accused of helping the CIA find Osama bin Laden has been jailed for 33 years for treason, officials said, a move likely to deepen strains in ties between Washington and Islamabad.
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 US special forces raid last May.
“Dr Shakil has been sentenced to 33 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 320 000 Pakistani rupees (R29 220),” said Mohammad Nasir, a government official in Peshawar, where the doctor will go to jail.
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 US-led troops in Afghanistan.
Senior US officials had made public appeals for Pakistan, a recipient of billions of dollars in American aid, to release Afridi, who was detained after US Seals killed Bin Laden.
In January, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said 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 US raid humiliated Pakistan’s powerful military.
Intelligence co-operation between the US and Pakistan has been cut drastically.
Afridi’s prison term could complicate efforts to break a deadlock in talks over the reopening of supply routes through Pakistan to US-led Nato forces in Afghanistan.
Pakistan closed the supply routes, vital to the planned withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan before the end of 2014, in protest against the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a Nato air attack. – Reuters
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