Shakil Afridi: Doctor who helped CIA catch Bin Laden 'can be released very soon' after Pakistan prison move

Medic locked up after running fake vaccine programme which helped US forces locate al-Qaeda leader

Saturday 28 April 2018 16:55 BST
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Shakil inadvertently helped the CIA confirm bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad
Shakil inadvertently helped the CIA confirm bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad (Getty)

The Pakistani doctor jailed after allegedly helping American forces hunt down Osama bin Laden has been moved by prison authorities, prompting speculation he is to be released.

Shakil Afridi was accused of treason and locked up after running a fake vaccine programme which helped the CIA confirm the al-Qaeda leader’s presence in the city of Abbottabad.

The samples paved the way for a US Navy Seal raid which killed the September 11 mastermind.

Dr Afridi’s continued imprisonment has long been a source of tension between Pakistan and the US, which says it is indicative of Islamabad’s reluctance in the fight against terror. Pakistan, for its part, claims the raid – carried out without forewarning – was a violation of sovereign territory.

Now, a jail official in the north western city of Peshawar has said Dr Afridi had been transferred to Adiala prison near the capital, according to Reuters.

The official – speaking under condition of anonymity – said it could simply be a security-related move but did not rule out a possible release.

Dr Afridi’s lawyer, Qamar Nadeem, confirmed the transfer but said he was not sure where his client had been taken.

Judicial officials could not be reached on Saturday. Neither could US embassy officials, who, nonetheless, seem certain to welcome the move.

Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi is photographed in Pakistan's tribal area of Jamrud
Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi is photographed in Pakistan's tribal area of Jamrud (AP)

Dr Afridi was arrested days after the US raid in 2011. He was sentenced to 23 years in jail for financing terrorism. That conviction was overturned in 2013, but he is still serving time for other terrorism-related convictions, his lawyer said.

He also faced a murder trial related to the death of a patient more than a decade ago.

However, Mr Nadeem said Dr Afridi had recently had his latest sentence reduced to seven years in a clemency action, and had served about that amount of time already.

"So I think he can be released very soon," he added.

There were, however, no other immediate indications of his being freed.

Just last year, Pakistan’s then-law minister said the country would not release Dr Afridi under international pressure.

Zahid Hamilton said: “Afridi worked against the law and our national interest, and the Pakistan government has repeatedly been telling the United States that under our law he committed a crime and was facing the law.”

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