NEW: The United States "has repeatedly asked" for the doctor's release, official says
NEW: Dr. Shakeel Afridi is in the custody of Pakistani authorities
A commission accuses him of treason for helping the CIA try to collect DNA samples
The commission also says bin Laden's compound will be turned over to city officials
A commission is recommending treason charges against a doctor suspected of helping the CIA target Osama bin Laden, Pakistan’s information ministry said Thursday.
“A case of conspiracy against the state of Pakistan and high treason is made” against Dr. Shakeel Afridi, the information ministry said, summarizing a commission’s investigation into the death of the al Qaeda leader.
The recommendation is nonbinding and it is unclear whether the government will act on it.
Afridi is accused of helping the CIA use a vaccination campaign to try to collect DNA samples from people who lived in bin Laden’s compound.
The United States “has repeatedly asked” for the release of the Pakistani doctor, a U.S. official said Thursday. The official declined to comment further on the treason charges.
Pakistani security forces detained the doctor in July, a senior Pakistani security official said at the time. He remained in custody Thursday, but it was unclear whether an attorney was representing him.
A May 2 raid by U.S. Special Operations Forces killed bin Laden at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
The Guardian newspaper reported earlier this year that in the course of gathering intelligence for the raid, the CIA recruited a Pakistani doctor to run a vaccination program in the area. The goal was to try to obtain DNA evidence from bin Laden family members, the British newspaper said, citing unnamed Pakistani and U.S. officials.
Any DNA obtained from the people in the compound could then be compared with a sample from bin Laden’s sister, who died in Boston in 2010, as evidence the family was in the compound, the newspaper said.
Neighborhood residents told CNN that two women who appeared to be nurses visited homes and offered free vaccinations.
“This was one very small piece of a very large intelligence effort to determine that bin Laden was located at the compound,” a senior U.S. official told CNN over the summer.
The vaccination campaign occurred shortly before U.S. forces raided the compound, the senior U.S. official said.
“People need to put this into some perspective,” the official added. “The vaccination campaign was part of the hunt for the world’s top terrorist, and nothing else. If the United States hadn’t shown this kind of creativity, people would be scratching their heads asking why it hadn’t used all the tools at its disposal to find bin Laden.”
The Pakistan commission’s report also said the house where bin Laden lived would be turned over to the city’s civilian administration, and that authorities had finished questioning members of bin Laden’s family.
That means the commission’s restraining order that required the family members to remain in Pakistan during its inquiry can be lifted, Thursday’s statement said. The order barred Pakistani authorities from handing over bin Laden’s family members to officials in other countries.
The commission is continuing its investigation.
CNN’s Pam Benson and Reza Sayah and journalists Nasir Habib and Shaan A. Khan contributed to this report.