Pakistan orders retrial for doctor who aided CIA in bin Laden hunt

A Pakistani court has ordered a retrial of the doctor who helped the CIA track down Osama bin Laden, The Guardian reports.

Shakil Afridi was sentenced to 33 years in prison last year for treason, infuriating Congress and bringing U.S.-Pakistani relations to a new low. 

The Senate reacted by voting to cut $33 million from annual U.S. aid, $1 million for every year of Afridi's sentence, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) sought to defund aid entirely and even held up President Obama's nominee for ambassador to Pakistan.

The court decision follows efforts by Secretary of State John Kerry, who has longstanding relations with Pakistani leaders, to improve relations between the two countries. 

Kerry visited the South Asian country earlier this month for the first time since becoming the nation's top diplomat and even hinted at a rapid end to U.S. drone attacks that are reviled by most Pakistanis.

“I believe that we’re on a good track,” Kerry told Pakistani television on Aug. 1. “I think the program will end as we have eliminated most of the threat and continue to eliminate it.”

A State Department spokeswoman had to walk back the comments the very next day, saying the Obama administration reserves the right to unilateral actions to defend itself against Islamist militants.

Afridi, a former public health official, helped the CIA run a phony vaccination campaign aimed at gathering blood samples to track down bin Laden family members. He was arrested soon after on allegations that he had links to a militant group and had conspired against the state.

The court ruling sends the verdict back to the tribal administrator who first sentenced Afridi. His lawyer, Samiullah Afridi, told The Guardian that he was not hopeful about a retrial.

“We do not have any expectations because whatever happens will be according to what the [security] agencies want,” Afridi's lawyer said. “We want that Dr Shakil Afridi should be tried by a lower level judge, at the very least.”

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