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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Bin Laden Son Seeks Asylum in Spain

Published: November 4, 2008

MADRID — One of Osama bin Laden’s sons, who made headlines last year when he married a British woman, is seeking asylum in Spain, the government said Tuesday.

Amro Maraghni/A.F.P. — Getty Images

Omar Osama bin Laden, shown in January in Cairo. He arrived in Madrid on Monday.

The son, Omar Osama bin Laden, 27, arrived at Madrid’s Barajas International Airport on Monday on a flight from Cairo bound for Casablanca, Morocco, a spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry said.

The spokeswoman said Mr. bin Laden was traveling on a Saudi passport and was being held at the airport in a special center for asylum seekers. Under Spanish law, the government has 72 hours to decide whether to allow him to stay, she said.

If he is granted provisional asylum, Mr. bin Laden may remain in Spain while his case is reviewed. If his petition is denied, he has one day to file an appeal.

It was not immediately clear on what grounds Mr. bin Laden, a self-declared pacifist who is the son of the founder of Al Qaeda and his first wife, Najwa Ghanem, was basing his claim.

Mr. bin Laden caused a media storm in Britain last year when he married Jane Felix-Browne, then 51, who took the Muslim name Zaina Mohamed al-Sabah.

She met Mr. bin Laden during a trip to Egypt in April last year and married him in September, according to news reports at the time.

Mr. bin Laden was refused a visa by the British Embassy in Cairo because of what the authorities perceived to be his loyalty to his father, which would “cause considerable public concern” in Britain, according to The Associated Press.

One of 19 children fathered by Osama bin Laden, Omar is the fourth-eldest son, according to several news reports. “I am proud of my name, but if you have a name like mine you will find people run away from you, are afraid of you,” he told CNN in January, urging his father to “find another way.”

Britons have been especially sensitive about Al Qaeda since four suicide bombers killed 52 people in London on July 7, 2005. In a video made beforehand, one bomber, Mohammad Sidique Khan, declared loyalty to “our beloved sheik, Osama bin Laden.”

Alan Cowell contributed reporting from Paris.