Pakistan charges doctor who helped find bin Laden with murder

AFP , Saturday 23 Nov 2013

Authorities in northwest Pakistan have charged the doctor who helped the CIA find Osama bin Laden with murder and fraud, officials and a defence lawyer said Saturday.

"A murder and fraud case was registered against Shakeel Afridi this week after a tribal woman accused him of killing her son," a senior government official in Peshawar told AFP.

Afridi's lawyer Samiullah Afridi confirmed the charges, which come some three months after his conviction for treason was overturned.

Afridi was recruited by the CIA to run a fake vaccination programme in Abbottabad in the hope of obtaining DNA samples to identify Al Qaeda chief bin Laden, although medics never managed to gain access to the family.

The doctor was arrested after US troops killed bin Laden in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad in May 2011.

Islamabad branded the raid a violation of sovereignty, and Pakistan's relations with the US fell to an all-time low.

In 2012 Afridi was convicted of treason over alleged links to militant group Lashkar-e-Islam, under the tribal justice system of his home district of Khyber, part of Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal belt

He was sentenced to 33 years in jail and fined $3,500. Angry US politicians saw the sentence as retaliation for his role in bin Laden's capture, and last year threatened to freeze millions of dollars in vital aid to Islamabad.

In August, his sentence was overturned and he now faces a retrial.

Afridi's lawyer Samiullah Afridi, who shares his client's tribal name, told AFP on Saturday that the new charges against the doctor were "strange".

"How strange it is that authorities registered these cases after five years," he said, adding that he will defend his client in all the cases.

Naseeb Gula, from the northwestern tribal district of Khyber, accused Afridi of killing her son Sulaiman Afridi, who also shares the tribal name, in 2007.

She said the doctor operated on her son three times for appendicitis, but that he died after the operation.

The woman also accused Afridi of fraud, saying he was not authorised to operate on her son because he was not a surgeon.

A hearing has been fixed for December 20 in the main jail in Peshawar, Afridi's lawyer said.

It was decided to hear Afridi's case inside a jail due to security threats, according to a letter written by officials.

Lashkar-e-Islam, the militant group in Pakistan's Khyber district that Afridi was accused of having links to, and the Taliban have both threatened to kill him.

Authorities in Peshawar, where Afridi is being held away from Taliban and other terror suspects in jail, have demanded several times that he be transferred to a more secure prison.

An official letter seen by AFP and sent to the prison authorities in Peshawar confirmed the registration of murder and fraud cases and asked officials to make arrangements for a hearing.

"The accused (Shakeel Afridi) should not be produced in this court due to security reasons," said the letter, sent by a top official in Khyber.

"His case would be heard in Peshawar jail premises," it added.

Lashkar-e-Islam, led by warlord Mangal Bagh, is a militant organisation feared for kidnappings and extortion in Khyber, where Afridi worked for years as a doctor.

Afridi is the main tribe of Khyber district.

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