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Egyptian court orders FM to seek release of “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdul-Rahman | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – On Wednesday, an Egyptian administrative court ordered the Foreign Ministry to seek the release of “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdul-Rahman from a US prison. Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, Dr. Abdullah Omar Abdul-Rahman, the son of the spiritual leader of Egypt’s Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, described this as a “positive step” adding “we salute the Egyptian judiciary on its impartiality.” Omar Abdul-Rahman is serving a life sentence in the United States after being convicted in 1995 for his involvement in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, and for planning to launch other terrorist attacks including an attack on the United Nations headquarters. Shortly after Egypt’s President Mohamed Mursi’s election, the then president-elect pledged to work to free the Blind Sheikh.

Dr. Abdullah revealed that he – along with other members of his family –intend to travel to the US in the near future to visit the Blind Sheikh, informing Asharq Al-Awsat “we received a telephone call from my father five days ago – which is the scheduled telephone call that we receive from him every 15 days – during which we urged him to allow us to visit, and he accepted, and we have already begun our travel procedures.”

He also revealed that the Blind Sheikh is still being mistreated by US prison authorities, adding that he is forced to wash his own clothes in his cell, despite his age and infirmity. Dr. Abdullah stressed that not only is his father blind, he is also unable to walk and confined to a wheel-chair. He also accused US authorities of occasionally preventing his father from contacting his family by telephone under the pretext of punishment, asserting that US prison regulations allow prisoners to contact their family twice a month.

The Blind Sheikh’s son revealed that his father is suffering from a number of untreated medical conditions, adding that one of his feet has turned black, possibly due to complications from diabetes. He added that the prison authorities had wanted to amputate the foot, but that Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman had refused.

Dr. Abdullah told Asharq Al-Awsat “the Sheikh has to do everything for himself, even washing his own clothes despite his health concerns. They sometimes leave him for months without cutting his hair or nails, whilst occasionally they confiscate his clothes and strip-search him. They mock him and Islam, and this is something that is completely unjustified, particularly as he announced his support for the 1997 ceasefire announced by al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya.”

He added that his father had renounced violence and appeared in US media following the 1993 World Trade Center bombings to condemn the incident. He told Asharq Al-Awsat “the Sheikh condemns Muslims carrying out any violent acts in countries where they are residing, considering anybody who enters a country with a visa to have signed a security bond with this country and nothing justifies breaking this.”

Dr. Abdullah stressed “we hope that there is seriousness on the part of the Egyptian state towards securing the return of my father” adding “the major problem facing this step now – according to my father’s lawyer, former US Attorney-General Ramsey Clark – is that the US only deals with governments, in other words the Egyptian government must issue an official request to Washington regarding my father’s return in order to open discussions on this issue.”

For its part, an Egyptian administrative court issued a judicial ruling on Wednesday ordering Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Moahmed Kamel Amr, to take the necessary steps to seek the release of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman.

The court ruled that Egypt’s Foreign Minister should seek Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman’s release on grounds of deteriorating health based on medical documents submitted by the Abdul-Rahman family.

Dr. Abdullah welcomed this court decision, saying “this is a positive step and we salute the judiciary on its impartiality, this is what we expect from the Egyptian judiciary which cleared Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman of all the accusations that had been leveled against him during the era of deposed President Hosni Mubarak.”

The Abdul-Rahman family has campaign tirelessly for the release of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, holding a sit-in in front of the US embassy in Cairo for more than 4 years, demanding his release or transfer to Egypt.

The Egyptian judiciary acquitted Omar Abdul-Rahman of all charges relating to his participation in the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981, after he was detained for over three years following this crime. From his cell in America, Abdul-Rahman also declared his support for an initiative to stop violence launched by Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya in Egypt in 1997, which helped to stem the tide of terrorism that was sweeping through Egypt in the 1990s.

Since the 25 January revolution’s success in overthrowing former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, a number of Islamist leaders – who were living abroad to avoid persecution from the security services – have returned to Cairo. The Egyptian authorities have also released several Islamist leaders from Egyptian prisons, most notably Abboud and Tarek al-Zumar, who were convicted in the assassination of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.