A Pakistani court is set to charge five members of Osama bin Laden’s family with illegally entering and living in the country, their defense lawyer said Monday.
The al-Qaida chief’s family has been in Pakistani detention since last May, when U.S. commandos raided the house where they were living in the northwest army town of Abbottabad and shot and killed bin Laden.
Pakistan was outraged by the raid because it was not informed beforehand. Officials have insisted they did not know the al-Qaida chief was living there, and the U.S. has not found any evidence that they did.
A Pakistani court will charge three of bin Laden’s widows and two of his daughters on April 2 when the hearing against them resumes, said their lawyer, Mohammad Amir. The court gave the five women copies of the case and evidence against them on Monday, he said.
Pakistani legal experts have said the maximum punishment the women could receive is five years in jail.
Bin Laden and his wives were living with eight of their children and three employees in Abbottabad.
Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said previously that the children not involved in the case were free to leave Pakistan or could stay with their mothers for the duration of the trial.
One of the widows is known to be from Yemen, another from Saudi Arabia. The nationality of the third woman is unclear.
One of their relatives has reportedly visited Pakistan recently to urge authorities to let them leave the country. But it appears he was unsuccessful.
Bin Laden, the subject of a massive international manhunt, had been living in Abbottabad for at least five years before the CIA traced his whereabouts. The unilateral American raid humiliated and angered the Pakistani army, which has also faced uncomfortable questions over why it wasn’t aware of bin Laden’s presence.
A government commission is investigating the affair, but few expect it to come up with many answers. Its members have interviewed the wives. Last month, the government destroyed the three-storeyed compound the bin Laden clan was living in, removing a concrete reminder of the country’s association with the world’s most wanted man.