London – Omar Abdul Rahman, spiritual leader of Gamaa Islamiya, died in his prison in the United States, sources confirmed.
Kenneth McKoy of the Federal Correctional Complex in Butner, N.C., said Abdul Rahman died at 5:40 a.m. He suffered from diabetes and coronary artery disease and had been at the complex for seven years.
His family confirmed the news saying they received a call from U.S. authorities and his daughter Asmaa reported the news on her Facebook page.
His son Ammar told Reuters that his family had received a phone call from a U.S. representative saying his father had died.
Abdul Rahman, dubbed the “Blind Sheik” was convicted of plotting terror attacks in the United States in the 1990s.
Earlier, Media Advisor of Benaa Party Khalid al-Sharif said that efforts were exerted to transported him to Qatar, especially after U.S. administration had informed the Sheikh’s wife its intention to deport him to any Islamic or Arab country that would receive him.
Sharif had also requested former president Obama to offer Abdul Rahman a medical pardon before his departure. His family and defence attorney had requested continuously his parole for medical reasons.
Abdul Rahman, who was born in a village along the Nile on May 3, 1938, lost his eyesight due to childhood diabetes and grew up studying a Braille version of the Quran.
He went on to study at Cairo University’s School of Theology and later earned a doctorate in from al-Azhar University in Cairo. Abdul Rahman went on to become one of the country’s most prominent and outspoken Muslim clerics to denounce Egypt’s secularism.
Abdul Rahman fled Egypt to the U.S. in 1990 and began teaching in a New Jersey mosque. A circle of his followers were convicted in the Feb. 26, 1993, truck bombing of New York’s World Trade Center that killed six people, eight years before al-Qaeda’s suicide plane hijackers brought the towers down.
Later in 1993, Abdul Rahman was arrested for conspiracy to carry out a string of bombings against the United Nations, the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, the George Washington Bridge and other New York landmarks. He denied all allegations.
Since his imprisonment, Abdul Rahman’s influence had been seen more as symbolic than that of a practical leader.
His son Mohamed Omar was informed of the death and told AFP the family had contacted the American and Egyptian authorities to repatriate the late cleric’s body.
Abdul Rahman had been imprisoned in North Carolina since 2007. He was hospitalized in late 2006 in the state of Missouri after he began to spit blood and was given a blood transfusion.
In 2012, Egyptian Islamist President Mohamed Morsi called for Abdel Rahman’s transfer to Egypt for “humanitarian reasons,” asking for a “prisoner exchange” with the United States.
His son also said that the authorities had been in contact with them to transport Abdul Rahman to Egypt due to his deteriorating health. He added that since Trump took office, his father was denied medications and radio. Abdul Rahman had told his family during his last phone call that they might not be able to save his life.
On his Facebook page, Mohammed reported his father’s daily life in prison where he was put in solitary and sometimes stripped down naked. He said his father was treated badly and beaten repeatedly.
Head of the Islamic Observation Center based in London, Yasser Tawfiq Ali el-Sirri mourned the death of the sheikh and asked for forgiven and patience for this ordeal.
Abdul Rahman family’s lawyer, Muntaser al-Zayyat mourned the death on his Facebook page.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Abdul Rahman’s wife Aicha Hasan Saad, said that her husband was hopeful he would be released especially after the mediation of Sheikh Yousef Qardawi with Prince of Qatar in order to transport him to Qatar.
She added that the Sheikh was cautious not to eat any meat out of the fear of having pork brought to him.
Aicha added that during her last visit to her husband, 11 years ago, she was not allowed to shake his hands or give him anything.