Gruesome images of Osama Bin Laden's body following his death at the hands of US Navy Seals could be made public if a court rules in favour of their release.
The autopsy and burial photos of the former al-Qaeda leader have been classified since he was shot dead during the dramatic May 2011 raid on his compound in Abbottabad in Pakistan.
A lower court has already upheld the government's argument that the photos should remain secret in the interest of national security, according to Westwingreports.com.
But a federal appeals court is now considering whether the 52 pictures should be released following a lawsuit filed by the conservative-leaning legal watchdog, Judicial Watch.
The group says it is not seeking any information about equipment or techniques used in the raid.
President Barack Obama said the photos' release could provoke violence against US citizens.
During an appearance on the '60 Minutes' show on CBS he said it was important to ensure that 'very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool.'
After bin Laden was killed the Obama administration said his body was buried at sea off the USS Carl Vinson - in accordance with Islamic tradition.
The raid itself was completed shortly after 1 am local time when bin Laden was shot once in the chest and once in the head by a U.S Navy Seal who announced 'For God and country Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo', because Geronimo was the code-name given to the al-Qaeda leader.
President Obama himself said in the White House Situation Room watching events unfold, 'We got him.'
On TV: Bin Laden is shown watching himself on television in this video frame grab released by the U.S. Pentagon May 7, 2011, six days after his death
Safe house destroyed: Osama bin Laden's Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound is pictured in May 2011 (left) and as it was demolished last week (right)
Viewing the raid: President Obama and his key staffers watch the Navy SEAL mission at Osama bin Laden's compound in this White House photo
Before the U.S Navy SEALS left the compound they destroyed one of the two top secret stealth helicopters that had delivered them to the house after it encountered difficulties on landing and therefore could not take off again.
Intelligence recovered from the home made public in the aftermath of his death showed Osama bin Laden wrapped up from the cold watching news coverage of himself.
And it was later reported from Pakistan that one of bin Laden's wives told the Pakistani authorities that they had lived there for five years without detection.
In February 2012, Pakistani security agencies demolished the building to stop it becoming a shrine to the deceased al-Qaeda supremo.
Under fire: New film Zero Dark Thirty, starring Jessica Chastain in the lead role (pictured), has been widely criticized for suggesting that torture played a major part in the hunt for Osama bin Laden
Following an outcry from lawmakers over the portrayal of torture in a new thriller called Zero Dark Thirty and its role in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, a Senate panel has launched an investigation to determine whether CIA officials intentionally misled the filmmakers.
The Senate Intelligence Committee will examine records detailing meetings and conversations between intelligence officials, director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal.
The goal of the probe is to determine whether the agency gave the filmmakers 'inappropriate' access to classified material, and whether CIA personnel fed Bigelow and Boal false information to convince them that harsh interrogation techniques were effective in producing information that led to Bin Laden.See also:
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