Pakistani court: Doctor who helped find bin Laden was not convicted for CIA ties

A doctor who helped the United States find Osama bin Laden was sentenced to 33 years in prison last week for ties to an Islamic militant, not the CIA, according to Pakistani court documents.

The Pakistani court said it could not prosecute Shakil Afridi for his ties to the CIA because it did not have the proper jurisdiction, but it did have “evidence of the involvement,” according to court documents posted by Pakistani newspaper The Dawn. Instead, the court convicted him because of alleged involvement with a Pakistani militant group commander.

Afridi’s sentence last week further soured already tense U.S.-Pakistani relations, and the Obama administration called for his release.

Reaction was swift in Congress, as the Senate Appropriations Committee reduced funding for Pakistani aid by $33 million — $1 million for every year of Afridi’s sentence — and the Senate Armed Services Committee fenced off military aid.

Afridi helped the CIA by running a vaccination drive to try to get DNA samples from people inside the compound where bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan. While he was unsuccessful, U.S. officials say he helped an intelligence program that led to the killing of bin Laden.

While Islamabad made no attempt last week to dispute U.S. contentions that Afridi was jailed for helping the CIA, the court documents could complicate U.S. efforts to have the doctor freed.

The incident was the latest flashpoint between the United States and Pakistan, whose relations soured after the killing of bin Laden last year.

Pakistani officials were furious that the United States violated Pakistani airspace and did not inform them of the mission, while U.S. officials publicly accused Pakistani officials of knowing where bin Laden had been hiding.

The tensions hit their breaking point in November after NATO troops killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the Afghan-Pakistani border, prompting Islamabad to shut down NATO supply lines. Those lines have still not been reopened, although negotiations are ongoing.