'Bin Laden Doctor' Jailed For Militant Link, Says Court

A Pakistani doctor was jailed last week for alleged links to a banned militant group - not for helping the CIA to track down Osama Bin Laden, the text of the trial court's judgement shows.

A Pakistani doctor was jailed last week for alleged links to a banned militant group - not for helping the CIA to track down Osama Bin Laden, the text of the trial court's judgement shows.

The BBC's Orla Guerin says the papers add a bizarre twist to the case.Shakil Afridi's conviction has increased strains in relations between the US and Pakistan

It was originally thought that Shakil Afridi had been imprisoned for running a fake vaccination programme to gather information for US intelligence.

Dr Afridi's brother, Jamil, has dismissed the allegations as "rubbish".

Shakil Afridi was jailed for 33 years by the tribal court in a closed hearing.

His family have said the treason charges against him are also baseless.

The text of the judgement - released on Wednesday - shows that Dr Afridi was convicted for providing support and medical treatment to members of the militant group, Lashkar-e-Islam.

The judgement says there is also evidence that he was involved with foreign intelligence agencies, and this should now be considered by other courts.

Our correspondent says that whatever the official reason for his conviction, many in Pakistan will believe that Dr Afridi was jailed for helping the CIA locate Osama Bin Laden.

'Changing tune'

The text of the judgement makes clear Dr Afridi was tried for "anti-state activities". The controversial hearing was held behind closed doors under Pakistan's tribal justice system.

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad say that the court action was unusual because no militant leader or abettor has been tried and jailed in Pakistan's tribal regions.

Meanwhile, Jamil Afridi has told the BBC that suggestions that his brother supported Lashkar-e-Islam were "rubbish".

He said that far from giving a donation to the militants, Dr Afridi had been kidnapped by them and forced to pay a ransom.

"The authorities keep changing their tune," said Jamil Afridi. "Last week they were accusing him of something else. What kind of justice is that?"

In an earlier BBC interview, Jamil Afridi said that he was concerned for his safety and the safety of his brother.

There is some speculation that Wednesday's release of the judgment - which will almost certainly be the subject of a legal appeal by Dr Afridi's lawyers - may have been done under pressure from Washington.

On Friday a US Senate panel cut $33m (£21m) in aid to Pakistan in response to the jailing - $1m for every year of his sentence.

US officials say Dr Afridi was instrumental in tracking down the al-Qaeda leader and have called for his release.

It is not clear if any DNA from Bin Laden or any family members was ever obtained, or whether the doctor even knew the identity of the target.

His conviction has added to strains in US-Pakistani relations, already under pressure because of continuing US drone strikes in Pakistan and because of Islamabad's refusal to re-open overland Nato supply routes through Pakistan to Afghanistan. The routes were shut down in November since a US airstrike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan border.

Bin Laden was killed by US forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011.

His presence in Pakistan embarrassed Islamabad, which argued that the covert US operation was a violation of its sovereignty.