Pakistan cuts term for doctor who helped CIA find Osama bin Laden

Dr. Shakil Afridi in 2010.
(Qazi Rauf / AP)

PESHAWAR, Pakistan – A Pakistani tribal court on Saturday reduced the prison sentence for the doctor identified as helping the CIA track down Osama bin Laden from 33 years to 23 years.

Shakil Afridi, convicted in 2012 of links to a banned militant group, was cleared of one of the charges against him: that he sought to wage war against Pakistan.

Afridi was arrested by Pakistani authorities shortly after U.S. commandos killed the former Al Qaeda chief in a town outside Islamabad in May 2011. He has been held in Peshawar since then but has not been charged for his alleged role in the bin Laden raid.


U.S. officials believe he was targeted by Pakistani intelligence services angry over the raid, which President Obama ordered without informing Islamabad. American officials have lobbied for Afridi’s release, a request Pakistan has steadfastly denied.

Afridi, a head of the health directorate in the Khyber Agency tribal area, allegedly helped the CIA by carrying out a fake polio vaccination campaign in Abbottabad, a garrison town outside the Pakistani capital, in order to collect DNA samples of residents to determine whether bin Laden was living there. He was convicted on separate charges related to links to Lashkar-e-Islam, a militant group based in Khyber Agency.

The tribal court judge, Munir Azam, also reduced the fine against Afridi from 320,000 Pakistani rupees, about $3,200, to 220,000 rupees, or $2,200.

Ali is a Times special correspondent.