ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has charged Osama bin Laden's three widows with illegally entering and living in the country, the interior minister said Thursday.
The three women have been in Pakistani detention since May last year, when U.S. commandos raided the house where they, bin Laden and several of their children were staying. The commandos shot and killed bin Laden, and then buried his body at sea.
Rehman said the three had been charged in court, but he did not say when. It was unclear if they had a lawyer.
He said their children were free to leave Pakistan, but could stay with their mothers for the duration of the trial.
A Pakistani legal expert contacted about the case, Hashmat Habib, said the maximum punishment the women could receive was five years in jail. One of their relatives has reportedly visited Pakistan recently to urge authorities to let them leave the country. The decision to charge them could be a formal part of that process.
One of the women is known to be from Yemen, another from Saudi Arabia. The nationality of the third woman is unclear.
Bin Laden, the subject of a massive international manhunt, had been living in the Pakistani army town of Abbottabad for around 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-story compound the bin Laden clan was living in, removing a concrete reminder of the country's association with the world's most wanted man.