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Pakistan doctor who helped CIA get bin Laden charged with murder

| Friday, Nov. 22, 2013, 6:15 p.m.
AFP/Getty Images
Pakistani surgeon Shakeel Afridi is regarded by many of his countrymen as a traitor for helping the United States locate Osama bin Laden.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A local Pakistani government handed down murder charges this week against a doctor who helped the CIA track down Osama bin Laden, a move that could worsen already strained ties between Washington and Islamabad.

Dr. Shakil Afridi was hailed as a hero by U.S. officials for organizing a fake vaccination campaign in Abbottabad on behalf of the CIA in a bid to collect DNA and otherwise confirm the identity of the al-Qaida leader.

When a raid by SEALs in May 2011 killed bin Laden, Pakistan was outraged. Many consider Afridi a traitor.

The helicopter raid was an embarrassment for Pakistan, which has said it wasn't aware the world's most-wanted man was living a short distance from its equivalent to West Point.

The Khyber Agency registered the murder case on Thursday, charging Afridi in connection with the death of a teenage boy he operated on eight years ago. The charge was based on a complaint filed five months ago by the teenager's mother, Naseeba Gul, a resident of Khyber Agency. Afridi is a general practitioner rather than a surgeon.

Afridi has been in jail since May 2012 on charges of “conspiring against the state.” He initially received a 33-year prison term for providing money and medical treatment to patients belonging to the banned militant organization Lashkar-i-Islam, or Army of Islam.

But in August, a judicial officer overturned his prison sentence and ordered a new trial on the grounds that the person who sentenced the doctor wasn't authorized to hear the case. The Khyber Agency bordering Afghanistan is a semi-autonomous political entity where tribal law applies rather than the Pakistani courts. The government's interests are represented by a political agent.

Samiullah Afridi, an attorney who represented the doctor in the Lashkar-i-Islam trial, said the local administration has abused its authority with this latest case. (Afridi is a common name.)

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