- Published on Saturday, 30 June 2012 16:34
- Written by BC & Agencies
Egypt's president-elect has vowed to win the release of an Egyptian cleric jailed by the U.S. for planning the first attack on New York's World Trade Center.
Omar Abdel-Rahman, "the blind sheikh," is serving a life sentence in the U.S. federal prison for his role in the 1993 bombing that killed six people in lower Manhattan. The second attack on the World Trade Center launched by al Qaeda and which came partly in a response for Abdel-Rahman imprisonment eight years later on Sept. 11, 2001, killed nearly 3,000 people.
"I see banners for Omar Abdel Rahman's family, and forprisoners arrested according to martial rulings and detainees from the beginning of the revolution," said Egyptian president-elect Mohammed Morsi to a buoyant crowd of Islamist supporters in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday. "It is my duty to make every effort, and I will beginning tomorrow, to secure their release, among them Omar Abdel Rahman."
Rahman, 74, a veteran of Egypt's Islamist movement, was jailed in Egypt for allegedly helping to inspire the assassination of President Anwar Sadat. He entered the U.S. in 1990. One of his followers was convicted of gun possession, though acquitted of murder, after the assassination of Jewish leader Rabbi Meir Kahane in New York in 1990.
Using evidence collected by an Egyptian informant, the U.S. government prosecuted Rahman for conspiracy in connection with the February 1993 World Trade Center attack. After the attack, the government recorded Rahman encouraging further violence against targets in New York and New Jersey. Rahman and nine followers were arrested in June 1993, and he was sentenced to life in prison in 1996. He is presently incarcerated at the Butner federal facility in North Carolina.
According to some reports Abdel-Rahman contacts with the U.S authorities started before he moved to the U.S. and for many observers that is why his arrest and conviction came as such large issue of contentiousness. His case became lighting rod not only for many Islamist organizations, but for many human rights and legal organizations in the U.S. and elsewhere.
In 2005, as an unprecedented case, even his lawyer Lynne Stewart was convicted of serving as a messenger between Rahman and Islamists in Egypt despite her claims of lawyer-client privileges. Ultimately, Stewart was found guilty for distributing press releases on behalf of her jailed client. She was sentenced to 28 months in federal prison, and then resentenced to 10 years in prison in 2010 after an appeals court ruled that two years and four months of prison time was too light.