RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi Arabia has no evidence that Osamabin Laden’s wives and family members deported from Pakistan have been involved in terrorism, an official Saudi statement said Sunday in an indication that authorities will allow the group to remain in the kingdom.
The statement also provided more details of the secrecy-shrouded arrival of the late al Qaeda leader’s family, saying they were met in the Red Sea city of Jiddah by other members of bin Laden’s extended clan. Pakistan said the 14-member group, including three of bin Laden’s widows and their children, were deported Friday after weeks of negotiations.
The state-run Saudi Press Agency, citing an “official source,” said there “is no information or evidence of the family’s involvement or participation in any criminal or illegal acts.”
It added that the deportations were handled on “humanitarian, legal and religious” grounds, further suggesting the kingdom would allow the group to remain. One of the widows is Yemeni, and the other two are Saudi citizens.
On Friday, relatives of bin Laden’s Yemeni widow, Amal Ahmed Abdel-Fatah al-Sada, said she had received assurances from Saudi officials that she and her five children could remain in the kingdom. The relative spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
Bin Laden was killed in a May 2, 2011, raid on his compound in Pakistan by U.S. Navy SEALs.
His widows later were interrogated by Pakistani intelligence agents and convicted — along with two adult daughters — of illegally entering and living in the country. Their 45-day prison term, which was spent at a closely guarded house in Islamabad, ended earlier this month.
Saudi Arabia stripped bin Laden of his citizenship in 1994 because of his denunciations of the Saudi royal family, but Sunday’s statement suggested his wives and families would not be affected by the decision.
The bin Laden family is one of the most prominent in Saudi Arabia, with close ties to the royal family and a fortune rooted in a construction business started by Osama bin Laden’s father. The family largely distanced itself from the late al Qaeda leader years ago.