PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A Pakistani appeals court on Thursday overturned the 33-year jail sentence of Shakil Afridi, a doctor widely credited with helping the CIA track down al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, who was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in 2011.
Afridi remains in the central jail in Peshawar, where the appeal was heard, while awaiting a new trial.
U.S. officials consider Afridi a hero for his assistance, and his arrest and harsh sentence for allegedly helping militants further strained ties between Washington and Islamabad already damaged by the bin Laden raid. Last year, then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton denounced Afridi's treatment as "unjust and unwarranted," and angry members of Congress withheld $33 million in aid — $1 million for each year of Afridi's prison term.
Afridi ran a fake vaccination campaign, collecting DNA samples that reportedly helped the U.S. intelligence agency conclude that bin Laden was in the Abbottabad compound.
The earlier court's decision was set aside Thursday when Judge Sahibzada Mohammad Anees ruled that the de facto judge in the case exceeded his authority in handing down such a long sentence last year, according to Afridi's lawyer, Samiullah Afridi. The retrial will be held under the same tribal laws but overseen by a different official.