Osama bin Laden’s widows have been charged with illegally entering and living in Pakistan, Interior Minister Rehman Malik revealed on Thursday.
“The wives were presented before the court. After that, they are on judicial remand, and are being kept in a proper, legal manner,” Malik told reporters.
“Cases have been registered against the adults, not the children,” he added.
The children are living ‘comfortably’ in a five-bedroom house in Islamabad, Malik said, adding that they “are free to leave for wherever they want to.”
Malik’s details, however, were sketchy. He did not specify which court was dealing with the case, or where the women are being held.
“The [wives] would only be allowed to leave the country if they meet the legal requirements,” the interior minister said.
The al Qaeda leader was killed in a secret raid by US Special Forces in Abbottabad in May last year. His three wives and an undisclosed number of children were detained by Pakistani authorities after the raid.
“Bin Laden’s family was handed over to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for judicial custody. Their entry in Pakistan was illegal,” a senior official quoted Rehman Malik as informing the Abbottabad commission on Wednesday.
Malik said that a copy of the FIR registered against Bin Laden’s family members under section 14 of the Foreigners’ Act is available with the interior ministry, the official added.
Two of the wives are Saudi nationals, and one is from Yemen, according to the foreign ministry. Authorities had previously said they will repatriate the women to their home countries after the Abbottabad commission completes its probe.
“Osama’s family is being provided legal assistance under the Foreigners’ Act,” said a senior official from the interior ministry, currently overlooking nearly two dozen family members living in a house in sector G-6 of Islamabad.
“Foreigners who are living without proper documentation can be prosecuted under the act,” added lawyer Ahmer Bilal Soofi.
“They can be interned and retained under these laws,” he added.
“If the family members are found guilty, they can be punished under the Foreigners’ Act for up to five years,” said Hashmat Habib, a senior lawyer, when asked to comment on the issue.
WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MAHA MUSSADAQ IN ISLAMABAD.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2012.