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Egyptian Islamists in Iran returning home - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Sheikh Muhammad Yasin, a major figure within Egypt’s al Jamaat al Islamiya said that among the most prominent names to have recently returned to Egypt from Iran is Hussein Shumayt, who in fact returned last week with his Algerian wife and his four children. Shumayt, he added, was one of the main participants in the attempted assassination of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa. He was sentenced to five years in prison in Egypt in one case; however, in regard to the attempted assassination of Mubarak, that investigations was suspended, however, other Egyptians, were sentenced to death there, and they remain present in Addis Ababa. Work is under way to release them, too.

As for Muhammad Shawqi al-Islambuli, brother of president Anwar al-Sadat’s assassin, Khalid al-Islambuli, Sheikh Yasin says that he chose to go to Pakistan but fell ill at the border — he was suffering in the wake of a heart-valve operation — and therefore returned to Tehran for treatment. Iran subsequently deported him to Turkey for a period of three days, but they brought him back to Tehran again and told him that the Egyptian ambassador in Tehran would meet him. As for when Al-Islambuli might return to Egypt, Sheikh Yasin said: “He will return to Egypt. They have readied some of his belongings for his return, but at the present moment he is still in Tehran. He is expected to return to Egypt momentarily, because in Egypt they have closed the case for political and security reasons. The Islamists who were once a bargaining chip for Iran has seen their political value drop, as Tehran is now seeking to improve relations with Egypt after the January 25 revolution.”

Regarding Islamist Muhammad Ibrahim al-Saghir (Abu-Abdullah al-Muhajir), who was under arrest in Iran, Sheikh Yasin said that he had been released and made his way back home through Turkey “He telephoned me[from Turkey], and we made calls for him to the Foreign Ministry. God be praised, he came back about a week ago. He is now in Port Said with his Jordanian wife and his three children. There are no judgments against him in Egypt.”

About whether Abu Abdullah al-Muhajir had returned officially from Iran or had escaped, Sheikh Yasin said that Iran informed him that he was supposed to leave within days. “He telephoned me from Iran, and I told him to go to Turkey, because the Egyptian embassy in Turkey was cooperative and good. He did in fact go to the embassy. Travel documents were prepared for him, and he and his wife returned. I met him at the airport. He had a problem — more exactly, an old proceeding against him in Port Said and against Ayman al-Zawahiri and others. He was released by the office of the prosecutor for state security and the proceeding in Port Said was suspended.”

As for the manner in which the Egyptian Islamists lived in Iran and whether, for example, they were in civilian locations but under guard, or in prisons, or in places belonging to the state, Sheikh Yasin said they were under house arrest in residences resembling prisons. These consisted of houses or villas surrounding by a large outside wall. They were there with their families. Each family would go out once a week to attend to its needs. Sadly, they suffered greatly.

Regarding the number of Egyptian Islamists in Iran, Sheikh Yasin added that the number of men alone up until last year was about twenty-five brothers from al Jamaat al Islamiya; the number before that was greater. “It reached about 150 in the past two years, and there were many women.”

Regarding the direction in which the 150 might have gone in the past two years, Sheikh Yasin told Asharq Al-Awsat that about fifty of them returned to Egypt. Some unfortunately preferred to return to Afghanistan, but were killed. Some returned to Pakistan. “A number of them were killed, but the remainder of them — about 100 — are still in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Regarding financial support the Egyptian Islamists obtained during their presence in Iran, Sheikh Yasin said: “It was from al-Qaeda and from some Pakistanis and Afghans. They helped us, even when they were in Iran. However, Iran used to pay them weekly salaries equivalent to about $1,000 a month. Iran prevented them from contacting the outside world.”

Regarding the manner in which aid from al-Qaeda and from the Pakistanis and Afghans was funneled to the Egyptians in Iran; Sheikh Yasin said that it was done through intermediaries.

Regarding the reason behind Egyptian Islamists taking refuge in Iran, Sheikh Yasin explained that it was because Iran was the only option, especially after the American invasion of Afghanistan. He added: “Iran exploited this event politically to pressure Egypt and America and to play this card.”

About the most important names of Egyptian Islamists who have left Iran for Pakistan and Afghanistan recently, Sheikh Yasin said that among the most important of these names is Tharwat Salah Shahatah Abu al-Samh from Al-Jihad, who is under death sentence in Egypt. There is also the name of Saif-aldin, the son of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, who isn’t wanted by Egyptian authorities. Al Jamaat al Islamiya member, Ahmad Salah al-Ansari, is in Afghanistan, but his return is expected shortly — he has nothing legally or security-wise against him. As for Osama Hasan, he is from the Islamic Group, but was killed in Afghanistan about eight or nine months ago in an American attack. His wife, daughter, and son have returned to Egypt.

About efforts for the return of these Egyptian Islamists, Sheikh Yasin said: “We have more than one way. We are contacting them directly and contacting the ruling Military Council and the Egyptian Interior Ministry to facilitate their return.” He indicated that this method in fact was bringing concrete results. “I expect this affair to finish and that all the Egyptian Islamists will return to their country before the end of this year now that the situation in Egypt has changed.”

As for the main obstacles that might hinder their return, he said: “The papers to prove their identity are the biggest problem. However, we are in the process of getting birth certificates and other papers to solve the problem.”

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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