REPORTING FROM ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN -- A Pakistani judge sentenced Osama bin Laden’s three widows and two of his daughters to 45 days in jail each for entering the country illegally and ordered that they be deported once their sentences end, the lawyer for the five women said Monday.
The three wives, one from Yemen and two from Saudi Arabia, along with two of Bin Laden’s adult daughters have been held in custody since last May, when U.S. commandos carried out a secret nighttime raid to kill the militant leader at his compound in the Pakistani military city of Abbottabad.
Authorities on March 3 charged the family with illegally entering and living in Pakistan. Judge Shahrukh Arjumand ruled that they will get credit for time served since that date, which means they will be freed in two weeks, said Mohammed Amir, an attorney for the women.
The five women are being held in a house in Islamabad, the capital, and will remain there until deportation. They were also each fined $110.
The two Saudi wives, Khairiah Saber and Silham Sharif, did not cooperate with investigators. However, Amal Ahmed Abdul Fatah, a 30-year-old Yemeni national, gave Pakistani authorities a detailed account of Bin Laden’s movements within Pakistan after he fled Afghanistan following the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
While the report details Bin Laden’s whereabouts during his stay in Pakistan, it leaves unanswered a critical question that Pakistani authorities have so far been unable or unwilling to resolve: Can Bin Laden’s undetected presence in the country for nine years be explained by sheer incompetence on the part of Pakistan's intelligence and security community or were authorities complicit in providing him sanctuary?
After the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Bin Laden and his three wives separated and sought refuge in different locations. While the Al Qaeda leader was believed to have fled to the Pakistan's tribal region of South Waziristan, Fatah and one of her daughters went to Karachi, the country's largest city and commercial capital, she told investigators. She stayed in the city for eight or nine months and changed locations six or seven times, with the help of “some Pakistani family” and one of Bin Laden’s sons, Saad.
Sometime in 2002, Fatah reunited with Bin Laden in Peshawar, a large, chaotic city perched on the edge of Pakistan’s tribal region, according to the report. From there, they moved to the Swat valley for eight or nine months, changing locations twice. Afterward they relocated to Haripur, where they lived for two years before moving to Abbottabad in 2005.
Fatah told investigators that the Bin Laden family’s stays in Swat, Haripur and Abbottabad were arranged by two Pakistani brothers who lived with them. In the report, Fatah referred to them as Ibrahim and Abrar, though neighbors who lived near the Bin Laden compound in Abbottabad said they knew the brothers as Arshad and Tariq Khan. It is believed that one of the brothers was Bin Laden’s courier, Abu Ahmed Kuwaiti, whose trail eventually led U.S. intelligence agents to Bin Laden’s location in Abbottabad. Both men were killed in the U.S. raid on the compound last May.
Bin Laden’s wives could have been sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison. Amir, the attorney, said the government of Yemen has indicated it will allow Fatah and her five children, all under the age of 12, to repatriate. The Saudi government, however, has yet to say whether it will allow Sharif and Saber to return to Saudi Arabia, Amir said.
Photo: Zakariya Ahmad Abd Fattah, left, brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden, talks with the media as he leaves the house in Islamabad, Pakistan, where the late Al Qaeda leader's family is being detained, with lawyer Atif Ali Khan. Credit: B.K. Bangash / Associated Press.