Judge overturns jail term for Pakistan doctor who helped find Osama bin Laden

Dr. Shakeel Afridi attends a malaria control campaign in Khyber tribal district in 2010. Mohammad Rauf / AFP - Getty Images

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- A doctor who was jailed for 33 years for helping the CIA find Osama bin Laden had his prison sentence overturned by a local judge Thursday.

Shakeel Afridi was arrested for treason last year over his role in a CIA-backed fake polio vaccination campaign which he used to collect DNA samples from bin Laden and his family in order to prove the al Qaeda leader's whereabouts to U.S. authorities.

Afridi was later charged and sentenced for alleged links to the banned militant group, Lashkar-e-Islam.

The doctor filed an appeal, which was heard by judicial official Sahibzada Mohammad Anees in Peshawar, Thursday.

Anees declared Afridi's sentence was incorrectly imposed because the officer acting as a magistrate in the original trial did not have the authority to hand down a 33-year prison sentence. Anees referred the case for re-examination.

Special public prosecutor Iqbal Durrani read out the verdict to journalists outside the courthouse. Durrani said he opposed the appeal decision, claiming Afridi had set up a hospital in the Bara subdivision of the Khyber tribal region providing healthcare to Lashkar-e-Islam militants.

"He was also funding the banned militant organisation against the state," Durrani said.

Afridi's lawyer, Samiullah Afridi, denied these charges, asking how his client could help the same organization which held him hostage until he paid a large ransom, requiring him to sell his house. The lawyer also said his client had been denied legal representation in the original trial.

Afridi's sentence last year angered the United States, which withheld $33 million in aid for Pakistan in retaliation. Afridi remains in custody, Reuters reported.

Reuters contributed to this report.