A Pakistani doctor who helped American intelligence track down and kill Osama bin Laden has been transferred to an unknown location because of possible threats to his life, a Pakistani official and a family member said.
Shakil Afridi, who assisted the CIA in finding bin Laden, was being held in a prison in the northwestern city of Peshawar where he has languished for much of the past eight years for alleged connections to banned organisations.
Afridi’s lawyer, Qamar Nadi, said his client had been held in solitary confinement in Peshawar’s central jail.
A senior prison official told AFP news agency on Friday that Afridi was moved to a safer place by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency late on Thursday.
The doctor’s brother, Jamil Afridi, confirmed that government officials informed him Afridi “has been moved to a safer place”.
According to local media reports, the provincial government requested that Afridi be moved out of Peshawar’s prison because of the presence of Taliban fighters among the inmates, which they said posed a heightened threat to his life.
Afridi participated in a fake vaccination programme in Abbottabad – a city 150km north of the capital Islamabad – as part of a controversial scheme by the CIA to identify the whereabouts of the former al-Qaeda leader.
US special forces entered Pakistan by helicopter and killed bin Laden in a raid in Abbottabad in May 2011.
Afridi was subsequently arrested by ISI agents and sentenced to 33 years in jail for alleged links to banned groups.
Some US legislators believe the surgeon was being punished for collaborating with the CIA.
“I’m sure they would let [him] out. Because we give a lot of aid to Pakistan,” Trump said at the time, adding Pakistan “takes advantage like everybody else”.
In 2016, after Washington’s threat to cut aid to Islamabad, Afridi’s sentence was reduced by 10 years.