The expected deportation of Osama bin Laden’s family from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia has been delayed because their passports are not ready, their lawyer said yesterday. The 12-member family — bin Laden’s three widows, eight children and one grandchild — had originally been due to leave overnight on Tuesday. Two of the wives are Saudi nationals and the third is from Yemen.
The 9/11 mastermind’s family were detained by Pakistani authorities after bin Laden was killed in a US special forces operation in the garrison town of Abbottabad, north of Islamabad, last May. Lawyer Muhammad Aamir said they were expected to receive their passports later on Wednesday and may be able to leave for Saudi Arabia later in the day. But a Saudi embassy official said they were still waiting for details from Pakistani authorities.
“We are waiting to receive names of the family members from the Pakistani interior ministry to proceed further in the matter,” said the spokesman. A senior Pakistani security official meanwhile said Pakistan was awaiting the green light from the Saudi and Yemeni governments for the deportation to proceed.
“No timeframe can be given at the moment,” he said. “There is a kind of understanding but things need to be finalised.” Aamir denied speculation that the authorities in Saudi Arabia and Yemen may be reluctant to accept them. “This is not correct,” he said. “They were scheduled to leave Pakistan for Saudi Arabia late Tuesday but the problem in completing their travel documents delayed the departure.”
Earlier this month, a court sentenced the widows and two of bin Laden’s older daughters to 45 days’ detention on charges of illegal entry and residency in Pakistan and ordered their deportation as soon as possible. They completed the sentence on Tuesday, counting time already served since they were formally arrested on March 3.
Aamir said that bin Laden’s youngest and reportedly favourite wife, Amal Abdulfattah, who is Yemeni, may be sent to Yemen with her five children.
The discovery of the 9/11 mastermind in Abbottabad dealt a massive blow to US-Pakistan relations and led to accusations of Pakistani complicity or incompetence.