In a twist to a case that has angered Washington, the Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA hunt Osama bin Laden was convicted and imprisoned last week for supposed involvement with an Islamic militant group, not his work for U.S. intelligence, court documents revealed Wednesday.
Shakil Afridi's 33-year prison sentence, which drew condemnation from the Obama administration and members of Congress, had been widely assumed to be the result of a treason conviction for working for a foreign intelligence agency.,
The judgment at a secret trial in Pakistan's tribal area on seemingly spurious charges of supporting a militant group was likely to rankle Washington further, even as lawyers said the shaky basis for the conviction would make it easier for it to be overturned.
Separately, officials with the provincial government holding Afridi said they fear for his life. He is being held at the main jail in Peshawar, the capital of the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where Pakistani Taliban -- an al-Qaida affiliate -- and other extremist prisoners also are incarcerated.
The case has worsened tensions between Pakistan and the United States, which regards Afridi as a hero for working with the CIA to locate bin Laden. In Pakistan, where America and the CIA are dirty words, Afridi is generally regarded as a traitor.
Before the secret U.S. raid last May that killed bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad, the CIA tried to confirm his whereabouts by enlisting Afridi to set up a fake vaccination program to try and gain a DNA sample from someone in the house.
The written verdict against Afridi shows that he was tried and convicted for his alleged association with Lashkar-e-Islam, a banned group that operates in Afridi's home area of Khyber and is separate from the Pakistani Taliban.
The verdict from the Khyber administration, dated May 23, stated that attacks against Pakistani security forces by Lashkar-e-Islam militants "were planned in the office of the accused." It also said that he provided medical assistance to various militant commanders and that he gave a cash donation worth about $22,000.