Asia

Pakistan charges Osama Bin Laden's widows

Osama Bin Laden
Image caption Pakistan says Osama Bin Laden's wives were living in the country with him illegally

Osama Bin Laden's three widows have been charged by Pakistan with illegally entering the country.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the women, reported to be two Saudis and a Yemeni, had been charged but did not say when the hearing took place.

The wives and about 10 children were taken into custody last May when US commandos raided their safe house.

The three women had been living in the compound in Abbottabad that Navy Seals attacked, killing Bin Laden.

Mr Malik said the women had entered the country illegally, and there were also "several incidents involving deception and forgery".

He told reporters in Islamabad that "only the adults had been charged", and the children were free to return to their native countries if their mothers agreed.

Currently, the women and their children are being held at a house which had been "declared a sub-jail", Mr Malik said.

Closed court

Legal experts say the maximum term the women could get is five years.

The BBC's Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says it is very unlikely the women will be tried in an open court with media access.

He says the authorities would not want them to publicly answer questions about how they managed to live in Pakistan for so long.

Last June, a Pakistani commission was charged with investigating how the al-Qaeda leader had managed to stay in Pakistan undetected.

The commission said his wives should not be allowed to leave the country until they had been interviewed.

Despite having a $25m (£15m) bounty on his head for his role in organising the 9/11 attacks on the US, Bin Laden managed to live in the Abbottabad compound with his wives and children for nearly five years.

It is not clear if these three women are Bin Laden's only widows however - it has been reported that he had up to six wives.

Our correspondent says Pakistan may have taken this step to put questions about the fate of the women to rest, and send a message to the world that Pakistanis are not as protective of Bin Laden and his family as many believe.