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Bin Laden's widows and children to be deported to Saudi

OSAMA bin Laden's three widows and their nine children are scheduled to be deported to Saudi Arabia today, almost a year after the al-Qa'ida chief was killed.

The family have been detained by Pakistani authorities ever since the pre-dawn raid by US Navy Seals in which bin Laden was killed.

They were interrogated by Pakistani officials and eventually charged last month with illegally entering and living in the country. They were convicted on April 2 and sentenced to 45 days in prison, with credit for about a month served. Their prison term, which was spent at a well-guarded house in Islamabad, ended yesterday.

Pakistani officials have said very little about the family, raising questions about why they were detained for so long.

Some speculated Pakistan was worried information from the widows would point to some level of official assistance in hiding bin Laden. The compound in Abbottabad where he lived for six years was about a kilometre from one of Pakistan's main military academies.

The Pakistani government has denied knowing the terrorist leader's whereabouts, and the US has said it has no evidence senior Pakistani officials knew he was in Abbottabad.

It's also possible that one of the reasons Pakistan kept bin Laden's family in detention for so long was the difficulty of figuring out where to send them. Two of the widows are from Saudi Arabia, and the third, al-Sada, is from Yemen.

Saudi Arabia stripped bin Laden of his citizenship in 1994 because of his verbal attacks against the Saudi royal family, and there have been questions about whether the country would accept the women.

The lawyer for the family, Mohammed Amir Khalil, said yesterday that they are scheduled to fly to Saudi Arabia.