Pakistan reported to have arrested five people for allegedly giving information that aided US in Abbottabad operation.
|The compound in Abbottabad where Osama Bin Laden was killed during a raid by US special forces [GALLO/GETTY]|
A Pakistani commission investigating the US raid that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has said a doctor who worked for the CIA should be tried for “high treason”, a move likely to anger US officials pushing for his release.
The government commission said in a statement on Thursday that it was of the view that “a case of conspiracy against the state of Pakistan and high treason” should be registered against Dr Shakil Afridi on the basis of the evidence it had gathered. It did not elaborate.
Such a charge carries the death penalty.
The doctor is accused of running a vaccination programme for the CIA that was designed to help track down bin Laden.
Afridi has been in the custody of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI] agency since May after US Navy Seals killed bin Laden.
The ISI was caught off guard by the covert American operation and is aggressively investigating the circumstances surrounding it.
The commission, which interviewed Afridi and the head of the ISI, Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha this week, has been tasked with investigating how bin Laden managed to hide in the army town of Abbottabad for up to five years, and the circumstances surrounding the US operation.
It is headed by a Supreme Court justice, and its members include a retired general, a former diplomat, a former police chief and a civil servant.
It is unclear why the body would make this recommendation public, and whether it will lead to charges being filed against Afridi.
Al Jazeera’s Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from Islamabad, said it was unclear whether Afridi would be convicted of treason.
“The likelihood of Afridi being charged with high treason and, indeed, being convicted of it and possibly receiving the most, I suppose, strong sentence you can receive, which is the death penalty, is a bit hard to say,” he said.
The commission was formed amid intense international pressure for answers over how bin Laden was able to live undetected for so long in Abbottabad, an army town close to Islamabad, the capital.
Afridi’s fate is a complicating issue in relations between the CIA and the ISI that were strained to the breaking point by the bin Laden raid.
US and Pakistani officials have said Afridi ran the vaccination programme in an effort to obtain a DNA sample of bin Laden.
The vaccination ruse has been widely criticised by aid agencies, which have said it could harm legitimate immunisation programmes in Pakistan.