PESHAWAR: Dr Shakil Afridi, a government surgeon who helped the CIA uncover Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts, was sentenced to 33 years for treason, officials confirmed.
Afridi, who was sacked as a government doctor two months ago, was found guilty under the tribal justice system in Khyber district, part of Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal belt.
In addition to his jail sentence, he was fined Rs320,000. The doctor had worked for years as a surgeon in lawless Khyber, part of the Taliban and al Qaeda infested tribal belt.
Afridi was not present in the court and not given a chance to defend himself, officials said. Under the tribal system, he would not have had access to a lawyer.
“He has been sentenced for 33 years on treason charges and has been moved to Peshawar central jail after the verdict was announced by the local court,” said Mohammad Siddiq, spokesman for the administrative head of Khyber.
Afridi’s trial took place over several days under assistant political agent Nasir Khan in Khyber. The verdict was confirmed by his boss, the political agent, in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Wednesday, the officials told AFP.
Under Pakistan’s tribal justice system, Afridi has the right to appeal.
Critics said Wednesday that he should not have been tried under tribal law in the tribal belt for an alleged crime that took place outside their jurisdiction.
He was sentenced under the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) clauses related to offences against the state, conspiracy, or attempt to wage war against Pakistan, concealing with intent designs to wage war against the state and on charges of working against the country's sovereignty, a Khyber administration official said.
In January, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta confirmed Afridi had aided US intelligence by collecting DNA to verify Bin Laden’s presence, and expressed concern about Pakistan’s treatment of him.
Seventeen other health officials, who worked on the same fake vaccination program set up by the CIA in a bid to confirm the al Qaeda chief was living in Abbottabad, have already been sacked from their government posts.