Photo by Mohammad Rauf/AFP/GettyImages.
UPDATE: Remember when the Pakistani doctor who helped find Osama Bin Laden was sentenced last week to 33 years in prison for treason? Um, turns out that's no longer the official story coming out of Pakistan.
New documents released Wednesday suggest that Shakil Afridi was instead convicted on charges of "anti-state activites" related to his alleged ties to a banned militant group, a somewhat bizarre twist in a story that has recently been at the center of increasingly-strained relations between Washington and Islamabad.
The new information directly contradicts the official story offered last week, when government officials there told western media outlets that Afridi had been convicted of treason. As the BBC rightfully notes, the newly-released info leaves plenty of doubts about the real reason Afridi was sentenced. For starters, 33 years would be significantly longer than the typical sentence for such "anti-state activities."
One possible explanation for Pakistan officials changing their tune is the fact that shortly after the "treason" story first broke, U.S. lawmakers voted to cancel $33 million in aid to Pakistan, $1 million for each year of Afridi's prison term.
A large part of the reason for the confusion over exactly what Afridi was convited of is that the doctor was tried in secret under a rather opaque tribal court system.
The court documents released Wednesday claim that Afridi provided aid and medical support to militant group Lashakr-e-Islam, and also mention that he was involved with foreign intelligence groups in some capacity. The judgment also accuses Afridi of donating over $20,000 to the militant group. But Afridi's family members tell the New York Times that he was kidnapped by Lashkar-e-Islam and held hostage for ransom.
Wednesday, May 23: Pakistan-U.S. relations took another turn for the worse Wednesday with news that a Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA locate Osama Bin Laden has been jailed for high treason.
The Washington Post explains that Shakil Afridi ran a fake vaccination program in order to collect DNA samples in Abbottabad, where Bin Laden was hiding, in the hopes of verifying that members of the al-Qaida leader's family lived in the house that was eventually raided by Navy SEALs. He was detained by Pakistani intelligence officials shortly after Bin Laden's death.
The AFP reports that Afridi was convicted of treason and sentenced to 33 years under Khyber's tribal justice system. Khyber is part of the country's semi-autonomous tribal region, and has a heavy Taliban and al-Qaida presence.
Pakistan, embarrassed by the revelation that Bin Laden had been hiding in their borders all along, reacted angrily to the raid, calling it a violation of their sovereignty. According to the AFP, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has previously said that someone in power in the country likely knew of Bin Laden's whereabouts, prompting U.S. officials to start the raid without warning Pakistan. Pakistan denies that they had any knowledge of his location.
Panetta spoke to CBS's 60 Minutes in January and confirmed Afridi's role in the hunt for Bin Laden. He called the doctor's prosecution a "real mistake," suggesting that both Pakistan and the United States have an interest in quelling terrorism in the country, a goal that Afridi aided.
Meanwhile, the United States is hoping to reopen a NATO supply route to Afghanistan through Pakistan. The route was closed in protest after a drone attack killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Reuters reports that a Senate panel voted on Tuesday to cut aid to the country should the standoff continue.
Adding even more fuel to the fire, Pakistani intelligence officials said on Wednesday that a U.S. drone strike in one of Pakistan's tribal regions killed at least four suspected militants in the country, CNN reports.