Bin Laden’s son battles for asylum in Spain

November 7th, 2008 - 12:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Madrid, Nov 7 (IANS) Omar bin Laden, one of the 19 children of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, has appealed against Spain’s rejection of his application for asylum, his wife has said.
Though “depressed and very worried about his safety”, Omar views the initial rejection of his asylum bid as “just a first step”, Zaina al Sabah told EFE from an undisclosed location in Spain.

Al Sabah, a British citizen whose maiden name was Jane Felix-Browne, said she herself was “very frightened” because of the media attention the case has invited, and blamed the Spanish authorities for “the unusual outcry”.

Spain’s interior minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said Thursday that Madrid would reject Omar’s asylum request even if the UN refugee agency UNHCR reversed its earlier position that the son of the terrorist chief does not qualify for refugee status.

Should UNHCR decide a second time that the request is without merit, Omar bin Laden would be immediately deported, the minister said.

“He does meet any of the criteria that Spanish legislation - consistent in this matter with that of the European Union - anticipates for being able to have asylum status in Spain,” Perez Rubalcaba said.

If UNHCR now reconsiders Omar a legitimate refugee, he would be allowed in the country pending an appeal to the Spanish courts.

Claiming that the Spanish government had provided her with a police escort, Zaina al Sabah said: “If they believe police protection is necessary, it is that they recognize we are in danger.”

“The worst thing they could have done is put our faces on television so everyone recognizes us, it’s madness,” she said.

Laden junior is a Saudi citizen, but he and his wife have been residing with friends in Cairo.

Zaina al Sabah said her husband felt it was no longer safe for him to live anywhere in the Middle East. “Omar is an innocent young man who has never participated in a single violent act,” Al Sabah said Thursday in a statement e-mailed to media organisations.

The 27-year-old Omar bin Laden is a trader who describes himself as “religious, but not an extremist” and has publicly urged his father to abandon violence.

After marying Al Sabah last year, Omar sought permission to live in Britain, a request London rejected on the ground that his presence in the country could create “social alarm”.

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