BY AQEEL AHMED
ABBOTTABAD, Pakistan — A Pakistani court reinstated in their jobs on Thursday 17 health workers who were fired last year for allegedly participating in a CIA scheme to confirm the presence of Osama bin Laden in a town in northwest Pakistan, a defense lawyer said.
Lawyer Javed Awan said the court order affected 16 female health workers and one male whom a government health department suspended last year for failing to inform authorities about Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi's fake vaccination campaign. The health workers insist they did not know Afridi was working for the CIA.
The campaign aimed to collect blood samples from bin Laden's family to show that the al-Qaida leader was in the northern town of Abbottabad, where he was later killed in a U.S. raid in May 2011. Pakistan strongly protested the raid, considering it a violation of the country's sovereignty.
Afridi was sentenced to more than three decades in prison for ties to militants. But it is widely believed that he was punished for his role in the raid. Afridi's lawyer and his family have said he is innocent as he did nothing against the interests of Pakistan.
Awan said the 17 had been directed by senior health officials to participate in the vaccination campaign, which ran in the town from February 15 to May 15, 2010, and that they were innocent of wrongdoing. "The court has done justice to them," he said.
"I am happy that I got my job back," said Amraiza Bibi, one of the 17 who was present in the court during the ruling.