The Pakistani doctor who helped the U.S. find Osama bin Laden by running a fake vaccination program was sentenced on Wednesday to 33 years in prison for treason, according to The New York Times.
A tribal court found 48-year-old Shakil Afridi guilty of acting against the state, fined him $3,500 and sent him to Central Prison in Peshawar. Afridi may appeal the verdict. The verdict, the Times reported, would likely have been the death penalty had he been charged under Pakistani penal code, but Afridi was instead charged under a British-era regulation.
President Barack Obama, who has been criticized for taking too much credit for bin Laden’s death, has so far remained silent on the verdict. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, though, has called for Afridi’s release, and American officials are working to shorten the sentence or appeal it.
Afridi admitted his involvement with the CIA to Pakistani officials before the raid and bin Laden’s death in May 2011. Shortly after, Afridi was detained near Peshawar by Pakistan’s military intelligence agency. Pakistani judicial officials recommended in October that Afridi be charged with high treason.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in January that the U.S. had been working with Afridi to locate bin Laden’s compound in the months leading up to his death in May 2011.
“For them to take this kind of action against somebody who was helping to go after terrorism, I just think is a real mistake on their part,” Panetta said on “60 Minutes” in January.
Afridi ran a fake hepatitis B vaccination program to acquire DNA evidence from the bin Laden family. Although Afridi gained access to the bin Laden compound, he never obtained DNA samples from inside the compound and he did not know the identity of his target, American officials told the Times.