Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Pakistan charges Bin Laden widows

A police commando stands guard as authorities use heavy machinery to demolish Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad(AP)

Osama bin Laden's three widows have been charged with illegally entering and living in Pakistan, the interior minister says.

The three have been in detention in Pakistan since May last year, when US commandos raided the house where they, bin Laden and several children were staying. The commandos killed bin Laden. His body was later buried at sea.

Rehman Malik said the three had been charged in court, but he did not say when they were charged.

It was not immediately clear what kind of punishment they could expect if found guilty.

The three, with several children, were living in Pakistan without a visa. Malik said their children were free to leave Pakistan, but could stay with their mothers for the duration of the trial.

A Pakistani legal expert, Hashmat Habib, said the maximum punishment the women could receive was five years in jail. One of their relatives has reportedly visited Pakistan recently to urge authorities to let them leave the country. The decision to charge them could be a formal part of that process.

One of the women is known to be from Yemen, another from Saudi Arabia. The nationality of the third woman is unclear.

Bin Laden, the subject of a massive international manhunt, had been living in the Pakistani army town of Abbottabad for around five years before the CIA traced his whereabouts. The unilateral American raid humiliated and angered the Pakistani army, which has also faced uncomfortable questions over why it wasn't aware of bin Laden's presence.

A government commission is investigating the affair, but few expect it to come up with many answers. Its members have interviewed the wives.

Last month, the government destroyed the three-story compound the Bin Laden clan was living in, removing a concrete reminder of the country's association with the world's most wanted man.

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