PESHAWAR, Pakistan - The Pakistani doctor who helped the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) hunt down Osama bin Laden started a hunger strike in his jail cell this week to protest against his living conditions, prison officials said on Thursday.
Shakil Afridi was sentenced in May to 33 years in jail for his links to a banned militant group. The decision was widely seen as punishment for helping the CIA find the al-Qaida leader, and has led to strained ties between Washington and Islamabad.
Prison officials in the northwestern city of Peshawar said they are keeping Afridi in solitary confinement and will not allow him to have visitors nor speak to anyone by telephone as punishment for a media interview he gave in September. An investigation following the September interview found that Afridi had bribed guards to use their cell phones to speak to journalists, family and friends, making a total of 58 calls, prison officials said. Six prison guards have been suspended.
US officials have hailed Afridi, aged in his 40s, as a hero for helping pinpoint bin Laden's location before the May 2011 raid that killed the al-Qaida leader.
Afridi had been working with the CIA for years before the bin Laden raid, providing intelligence on militant groups in Pakistan's unruly tribal region.