Morsi Promises to Free ´Blind Sheik´ from U.S. Prison (WSJ) WALL STREET JOURNAL) By MATT BRADLEY 06/30/12)
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Egypt´s President-elect Mohammed Morsi made a nod to his base in a
speech on Friday when he pledged to seek the release of Sheik Omar
Abdel-Rahman from U.S. custody.
Sheik Abdel-Rahman, who is better known as the "blind sheik" is
serving a life sentence at a federal penitentiary in North Carolina
for his role in planning the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center
in New York City.
His detention has become a cause célèbre among hard-line Salafi
Islamists whom Mr. Morsi counted on in his runoff against ex-regime
loyalist Ahmed Shafiq.
Dozens of bearded Abdel-Rahman supporters, many in religious
vestments, have slept outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo in a sit-in
that has lasted the better part of a year. A full city block of
downtown Cairo is festooned with banners bearing the blind sheik´s
image—bearded, capped with a red tarboosh and 1960s-era wayfarer
When Egyptian authorities charged seven U.S. citizens, including the
son of a cabinet secretary, with violating laws on foreign funding
for nongovernmental organizations in the spring, Sheik Abdel-Rahman´s
supporters lined up outside the courthouse calling for a prisoner
For die-hard devotees, Mr. Morsi has taken up a cause that proves his
revolutionary credentials: ousted President Hosni Mubarak did nothing
to seek the sheik´s release.
"It´s wonderful. He did very good mentioning Sheik Omar Abdel-
Rahman," said Hesham el Ashry, a sheik supporter and a preacher. ´If
America wants to be a real friend of the new Egyptian regime, they
have to respond to the request of Morsi and release Sheik Omar Abdel-
But for liberal-leaning revolutionaries who cast ballots for Mr.
Morsi only to block Mr. Shafiq´s bid for the presidency, the promise—
spoken in the same breath as a vow to work for the release of 12,000
Egyptians tried by military tribunals since February 2011—made them
"He gave a certain message: Our people like Omar Abdel-Rahman are our
first priority, then the youth," said Hala Mustafa, a spokeswoman for
the secular-minded liberal Egyptian Social Democratic Party.
Sheik Abdel-Rahman was one of the primary leaders of the Egyptian
militant group Al Gama´a al Islamiyya. Though the group was accused
of masterminding the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat,
Sheik Abdel-Rahman avoided blame and moved to Afghanistan, where he
made close associations with Osama bin Laden, the late leader of the
militant group al Qaeda.
In 1990, the blind sheik, who lost his eyesight as a result of a
childhood illness, moved to New York. He traveled the nation peddling
anti-American propaganda to Arab audiences before his conviction in
1995 on charges of "seditious conspiracy" in connection with the
Trade Center bombing. (guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media
Limited 2012 06/29/12)
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