By Sami Zubeiri / AFP
ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani court on Monday convicted Osama bin Laden’s three widows and two of his grown-up daughters of illegal residency, sentencing them to 45 days detention and ordering their deportation.
The Al-Qaeda terror chief’s two Saudi and one Yemeni widows, together with their children, have been in Pakistani custody since bin Laden was killed by US Navy SEALs at his villa in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad on May 2, 2011.
Their conviction is a step towards deporting the women as Pakistan nears the first anniversary of the raid that humiliated the country and raised fears that at least someone in authority must have been complicit in hiding bin Laden.
Monday’s proceedings lasted three hours, presided over by a judge in a makeshift court set up in the plush house where they are living and where they will serve out their sentences, away from the prying eyes of media.
Police commandos barricaded the main gate of the two-storey house and policemen could be seen on the first floor by journalists, confined to the opposite side of the road in the leafy G6 neighborhood of Islamabad.
Defence lawyer Muhammad Aamir said the 45-day sentence would date back to March 3, when they were formally arrested, and that the deportation process could be completed within two weeks.
“The interior secretary has been directed to arrange their deportation,” Aamir told reporters.
“I think it will be completed probably in two weeks,” he added.
He said the accused were “all in good health” and said they had all spoken during Monday’s proceedings.
Zakarya Ahmad Abd Al-Fattah, the Yemeni brother of bin Laden’s youngest and reputedly favorite wife, Amal, said the judge also imposed a fine of 10,000 rupees ($110) each, which he said had already been paid.
“The court has also given direction to the government to arrange the necessary documents for their earliest repatriation, so that they can go to their own country as soon as possible,” he told reporters.
Bin Laden’s two other wives have been identified as Khairiah Sabar and Siham Sabar. The three women have an undisclosed number of children among them, but only those above 12 were charged.
Under Pakistani law, they faced a maximum sentence of five years.
According to a police report, bin Laden hid in Pakistan for 10 years after the 9/11 attacks and fathered four of his children in the country.
The account given to interrogators by his youngest and reputedly favourite wife, Amal Abdulfattah, sheds new light on the Al-Qaeda leader’s life from when he fled Afghanistan in late 2001 until his death aged 54 last May.
Abdulfattah, 30, was shot while trying to protect her husband, according to the United States and her brother, visiting from Yemen, who has raised concerns about her health and that of her children while in Pakistani custody.
She said that after 9/11, they scattered and she came to Karachi with one of her daughters, Safia, her first child who was born in Afghanistan.
She stayed in Karachi for eight to nine months, moving between homes arranged for them by Pakistani families and bin Laden’s eldest son Saad.
Abdulfattah then met back with bin Laden in Peshawar, in northwest Pakistan. They stayed for eight or nine months in Swat, then for two years in Haripur, 90 minutes from Islamabad, before moving to Abbottabad in 2005.
During this time, Abdulfattah had four other children by bin Laden, two of them born in a public hospital.