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Osama bin Laden's family deported to Saudi Arabia. Case closed?

Osama bin Ladens three wives and 11 children left Pakistan early Friday, closing an awkward chapter for Pakistan, but leaving unanswered questions about complicity of Pakistani state.

By Contributor / April 27, 2012

Media chase a minivan carrying the family of Osama bin Laden, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Friday morning. A minivan carrying the three widows and children of Bin Laden has left the house where they have been staying in Islamabad and is en route to the airport, from where they will be deported to Saudi Arabia, officials and witness said.

B.K. Bangash/AP

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Islamabad, Pakistan

Early Friday morning Pakistani authorities deported 14 members of Osama bin Laden’s family to Saudi Arabia, bringing an awkward period that started with the discovery and killing of the world's most wanted man, to a close.

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“The whole affair has been long and confusing. So naturally, we're all glad to see that it's over. And the family is happy to be home,” says Muhammad Aamir Khalil, the bin Laden family lawyer.

The deportation ends months of speculation about the fate of Osama bin Laden’s three widows and 11 children and grandchildren, who were detained by Pakistani security forces after the raid on the bin Laden’s compound in the military garrison town of Abbottabad almost one year ago, on May 2.

It was still dark when a van pulled out of the pink-tiled white house that had served as a make-shift prison for nearly two months. With its curtains drawn, the van inched its way through a throng of journalists attempting to catch a glimpse of the bin Ladens. When the van finally broke free of the crowd, it headed for a chartered plane parked at the Islamabad Airport, to fly them to Saudi Arabia.

Despite his relief at seeing the case close, Mr. Khalil remains critical of the process.

“Whether the authorities like to admit it or not, the truth is that the bin Laden family had been illegally detained at least twice since US Navy Seals first killed Osama. First, for the eight-month period leading up to their official arrest in March. And now, for the past week. The authorities were supposed to deport them as soon as their prison sentence ended,” Khalil says.

Three wives and two adult daughters were officially arrested on March 3 and charged with illegal entry and stay on April 13. Though none of the children were charged – they were under the legal age limit – the five women were sentenced to 45 days imprisonment. They served that sentence in a five-bedroom Islamabad villa. That sentence ended on Wednesday last week, at which point they were set to leave the country.

According to the country's Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, the deportation had been delayed because neither Saudi Arabia nor Yemen had yet to hear whether and how Saudi Arabia would receive the families. 

Khalil, who also works with the Embassy of Yemen, dismissed those explanations.

“The Yemeni ambassador laughed when he heard the excuse,” Khalil says.

Saudi Arabia's willingness to accept the bin Laden family remained an open question until early this morning. Osama bin Laden had been stripped of his citizenship in 1994, and it was unclear whether the country would welcome the bin Ladens home. An anonymous source involved with the bin Laden family case informed the Monitor that Osama bin Laden's brother had played a key role in smoothing out relations with the Saudi Arabian government. He had negotiated with Saudi Arabia on behalf of the family.

“The bottom line is that they have finally gone home. The two eldest wives, Silham and Kharia, will remain in Saudi Arabia with their children. The youngest wife, Amal, will return to her home country Yemen after a few days, accompanied by the brother, Zakariya, who fought her case, and her children,” Khalil says.

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