CAIRO, Egypt – The application for a residency visa to Britain by Usama bin Laden's son has been rejected because British authorities believe his presence in the country would be upsetting, the British-born wife of the son of the Al Qaeda leader said Thursday.
Zaina Alsabah told The Associated Press that the couple's lawyers are appealing the decision, which she described as "illegal" and prompted by a flurry of recent media reports about and interviews with Omar Usama bin Laden.
A statement from the couple's attorneys cited an unnamed British consular official in Cairo as saying that bin Laden's son was rejected because his presence in Britain would cause "public concern" due to statements he has made to the press.
"It's not a legal decision, the decision can't be based on media reports," said the British-born Alsabah.
Omar, who says he hasn't seen his father since he left Afghanistan in 1999 at the age of 19, now lives in Cairo with Alsabah, whom he married in 2006. The couple wants to settle in Britain. Omar applied for a residency visa last October and was interviewed at the British Embassy in Cairo on April 17.
Alsabah showed The AP an April 23 statement released by the couple's lawyers, AMS Solicitors, quoting the British consular officer
s rejection of the application on the grounds Omar's residency in Britain would not be "conducive to the public good."
"I note that statements made during recent media interviews indicate evidence of continuing loyalty to your father who is ultimately held responsible for the London bombing ... and your presence in the UK could, therefore, cause considerable public concern," the unnamed officer was quoted as writing. Four homicide bombers influenced by Al Qaeda killed 52 people and injured hundreds after detonating themselves in London's public transportation system on July 7, 2005.
The lawyers' statement added that the case would be appealed before an immigration judge in London on the grounds that "such cases are not normally based on evidence obtained from newspaper articles and reports" and called the decision "not just and arbitrary."
Britain's Home Office, responsible for the country's borders and immigration, declined comment on the application. It said it did not address individual cases.
"There's not really any information I can give you because we don't comment on individual cases," a Home Office spokeswoman said, speaking anonymously in line with department policy.
While Omar, 27, does not publicly criticize his father, he has said he wants to be an ambassador for peace and increase understanding between Muslims and the rest of the world.
One of bin Laden's 19 children, Omar raised a tabloid storm when he married the 52-year-old British woman, Jane Felix-Browne, who took the name Zaina Alsabah. The couple say they want to be advocates, planning a 3,000-mile horse race across North Africa next year to draw attention to the cause of peace.
Alsabah dismissed the notion that their presence in Britain would upset people, noting that they had spent the last few weeks traveling through Austria, Belgium and France without any problems and were often recognized and greeted.
"People were fantastic with us in Europe," Alsabah said. "It was so nice, so why they (British officials) think the British people don't have the intelligence to realize that most of the things written in the newspapers were wrong, we can't understand."
Omar, the fourth eldest of bin Laden, lived with his father in Sudan, then moved with him to Afghanistan when Khartoum forced out the Al Qaeda leader in 1996. In Afghanistan, Omar said he stayed at an Al Qaeda camp but after leaving his father, returned to his homeland, Saudi Arabia.
Bin Laden is believed to be in hiding in the Pakistan-Afghan border region. At least two other of bin Laden's sons, Hamza and Saad, are believed to have an active role in Al Qaeda — with Hamza believed to be operating in the Pakistan-Afghan border zone and Saad thought to be in Iran, perhaps in Iranian custody.