Case sought against Pakistan doctor who helped CIA

October 6, 2011 - 1:15 PM

ISLAMABAD (AP) — A Pakistani doctor who allegedly ran a fake vaccination program for the CIA to track down Osama bin Laden should be put on trial for high treason, a government commission investigating the U.S. operation that killed the al-Qaida chief said Wednesday.

American officials are reportedly pushing for Dr. Shakil Afridi to be released from the custody of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, which was outraged by the covert CIA operation to kill bin Laden and is aggressively investigating the circumstances.

Afridi's fate is purportedly a complicating issue in relations between the CIA and the ISI that were strained to the breaking point by the bin Laden raid.

He is alleged to have run the phony vaccination program in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad where the al-Qaida leader hid in an effort to obtain a DNA sample from him. Afridi was detained in the days after the raid. He has no lawyer, and CIA officials have not commented.

The government commission said in a statement that it was of the view that "a case of conspiracy against the state of Pakistan and high treason" should be registered against Afridi on the basis of the evidence it had gathered. It did not elaborate.

Such a charge carries the death penalty.

The commission has interviewed Afridi and the head of the ISI, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha this week.

The commission 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 U.S. 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.

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 the capital. Skeptics will say it is unlikely to achieve that goal, given the power of the ISI and the army, and may well end up a whitewash.