MADRID (AFP) – Spain rejected Wednesday a request by Osama bin Laden’s son Omar for political asylum, months after he was refused permission to live in England with his British wife, the government and the couple said.
The petition was turned down “on the grounds of insufficient evidence of danger or threat to his life”, Omar and his wife Zaina Alsabah bin Laden said in a statement, adding they had begun the process to appeal the decision.
“As you know, we are having a very difficult time finding a country who will accept Omar, only because of his family name. This is unfair. Omar is not his father,” the statement added.
The 28-year-old, who has urged his father to give up violence, had argued that his life was threatened in the Middle East because of his pacifist positions.
He made the asylum request on Monday immediately after he arrived at Madrid’s Barajas airport on an Egypt Air flight from Cairo, where he currently lives with his 52-year-old wife, formerly known as Jane Felix-Browne. The couple were married in 2006.
A Spanish interior ministry spokesman said the decision to turn down the asylum request met the rules of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
“He was notified of the decision early this afternoon,” he told AFP.
In April British authorities turned down a request from Omar, a former scrap metal merchant, for a settlement visa.
At the time he said he wanted to live in England with Zaina at her home in northwestern England in the village of Moulton, near Northwich in Cheshire.
The British embassy in Cairo said it had based its decision on fears that his presence in the country would cause “considerable public concern”.
It is thought the authorities were referring to comments made by Omar that he could not be certain that his father was responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States that killed over 3,000 people.
While he has condemned violent acts in several media interviews, Omar has been criticized for declining to directly condemn his father, the founder of Al-Qaeda.
“Those who know the Arab culture understand that sons are not allowed to publicly attack their fathers. This is cultural. This does not mean that Omar agrees with his father’s activities. He does not,” the statement issued by Omar and his wife said.
“Only those who truly know the Arab culture will realize Omar’s bravery in taking a stance for peace against his father,” it added.
Saudi-born Omar is the fourth of 11 children born to his father’s first wife, and he is one of 19 children Osama bin Laden has fathered.
He made headlines in January when he urged his father to renounce violence in an interview broadcast on CNN.
“I try and say to my father: ‘Try to find another way to help or find your goal. This bomb, this weapons, it’s not good to use it for anybody,'” said Omar, who sported dreadlocks that dangled halfway down his back.
In their statement, the couple stressed that their decision to leave Egypt “had nothing to do with any actions of the Egyptian government”, which they thanked for allowing Omar to live in Cairo.
“There were outsiders working within Egypt which created genuine concern for Omar’s safety. That is the only reason we left Egypt,” the statement said.
In 2004 Spain suffered one of Europe’s deadliest attacks when bombs planted by Islamic extremists inspired by Al-Qaeda and angered by the country’s participation in the US-led invasion of Iraq exploded on packed commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people.