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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Osama bin Laden's son asks: 'What's the weather like in NZ?' Auckland, New Zealand

New Zealand Herald, 1:15PM Tuesday Nov 11, 2008--EXCLUSIVE - Osama bin Laden's son Omar, who hopes to seek political asylum in New Zealand, had one question today - about the weather.

He was unable to speak at length to nzherald.co.nz and asked only: "How is everything in New Zealand? Is it a cold country?"

It was about 18 degrees in Auckland at the time and the answer brought the response: "Oh, that is cold."

The 28 year-old has been living with his wife Zaina Alsabah bin Laden in Egypt. She said the couple were not safe in the Middle East because of Mr bin Laden's pacifist views.

She said they were now no longer in Egypt and she could not say where they were staying because that could put pressure on the local government.

Mrs bin Laden said the couple wanted to seek asylum in New Zealand because it was known for its democratic values and was a fair country.

"It's an amazing country with an amazing history. I believe they have a strong human rights stance and humanitarian stance," Mrs bin Laden told nzherald.co.nz.

She said Mr bin Laden had a very good business brain. She said he would also like to study English, politics and law.

When asked if she could understand if some New Zealanders would feel uncomfortable having one of Osama bin Laden's 19 children in New Zealand, Mrs bin Laden said: "Omar is not his father".

"People have more intelligence than to judge him by his father."

The English born Mrs bin Laden, who changed her name from Jane Felix-Browne, said her husband was in danger from fundamentalists and extremists who do not like what Omar was saying.

Omar could be heard in the background saying his philosophy was peace through dialogue.

Mrs bin Laden said her husband left Afghanistan when he was 18. She said there had been reports that he trained in Afghanistan as a fighter but that was not true.

"He never lived in a training camp, he lived in his mother's house. The slip up came in an interview when he was asked if he trained and he thought that meant study," she said.

The couple have had an application for asylum in Spain rejected and are appealing a decision in Mrs bin Laden's native UK.

She said the Spanish decision came after the UN issued a directive to say the couple were safe in Egypt.

Mrs bin Laden said the couple had since not been able to get a new visa and had been deported.

Immigration law

The Herald reported this morning that according to immigration law, the bin Ladens would not need a visa to travel to New Zealand, although security precautions would likely see them stopped before they got on a plane.

Saudi Arabian nationals are eligible for a three-month visitors permit on arrival, while British passport-holders are eligible for six months.

Association for Migration and Investment director Simon Laurent yesterday said if Mr bin Laden made it as far as the border, he would only have to utter the words "political asylum" and authorities would be obliged to let him stay in New Zealand while his case was investigated.

Whether he was held in custody or on bail would depend on the circumstances of his arrival.

Fewer than 300 foreign nationals apply for political asylum in New Zealand each year and those who do must meet strict entry criteria.

Under United Nations law, asylum seekers must fear persecution for reasons of "race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion" in their home country.

If allowed to remain in New Zealand, immigration law would allow Omar bin Laden to sponsor other family members to come to New Zealand.

But his fugitive father would not be welcome. The law is not enforceable if the applicant has:

* Committed a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity, as defined internationally.

* Committed a serious non-political crime outside the country of refuge before his admission to that country as a refugee.

* Been guilty of acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the UN.
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