Officials in Peshawar Thursday cancelled the 33-year sentence to a Pakistani doctor for “helping” the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in hunting down Osama bin Laden, and ordered his retrial, officials and lawyers said.
Dr. Shakil Afridi, who was accused of organizing a fake vaccination campaign to get DNA samples of the children of the slain al-Qaida chief in the Pakistani city of Abbotabad, was awarded jail term.
However, the administrative officer in Khyber tribal region last year awarded him jail term over charges of aiding the banned militant outfit “Lashkar-e-Islam” or the army of Muslims.
Afridi had challenged his conviction and Commissioner in the northwestern city of Peshawar Thursday abolished the jail sentence and order the Political Agent of Khyber tribal region to initiate his retrial, Afridi’s lawyer told the media.
“Judicial official Commissioner Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) Sahibzada Mohammad Anees ruled that the previous judge in the case exceeded his authority when handing down last year’s sentence and ordered a new trial,” the judgment said.
The case has been resent to the Political Agent of Khyber agency who earlier awarded 33 years imprisonment to Shakeel Afridi, his lawyer said.
US officials, including former Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, had publicly confirmed Afridi had worked for the US intelligence by collecting DNA to verify bin Laden’s presence. Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had also made similar remarks about Afridi’s role in the CIA operation.
The sentence had caused tension between Washington and Islamabad and the U.S. had called for his release. Pakistan has so far rejected US calls for his release.
The Abbotabad Commission, tasked to investigate the 40-minute uninterrupted U.S. military operation to kill Osama bin Laden and his presence in a compound, had proposed high treason against Dr. Afridi for helping other state.
While punished in Pakistan for violating the state law, Dr. Afridi was considered as a hero in the U.S. with some congressmen even proposing to present him with the highest American award.