U.S. Government Allegedly in Talks to Release 50 Egyptian Prisoners Including Shaykh 'Umar 'Abd-al-Rahman

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Translated from the original Arabic by Al Mutarjim

Shaykh 'Umar 'Abd-al-Rahman, commonly known in the United States as "The Blind Sheikh", is a blind Egyptian Muslim leader who was convicted of seditious conspiracy, and in 1996 was sentenced to life in prison. He was the leader of Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya (also known as "The Islamic Group"), a militant Islamist movement in Egypt responsible for many acts of violence, including the November 1997 Luxor massacre, in which 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians were killed. His prosecution grew out of investigations of the World Trade Center 1993 bombings.

The Egyptian government began taking steps to respond with the American offer to release 50 Egyptians being held in American prisons--including Shaykh ‘Umar ‘Abd-al-Rahman—in exchange for the release of 19 Americans accused in the case of foreign funding of civil society organizations. This is according to what was confirmed by Major General Muhammad Hani Zahir, an expert in military studies and international counterterrorism.

Zahir in comments to the newspaper 'al-Masriyun' said it was necessary for Egypt to exploit America's weak position, especially after condemning its citizens in cases affecting Egyptian sovereignty over its territory. He added that Egypt should not permit this exchange to take place unless the American administration agrees to release more than 500 Egyptians being held in American prisons, of whom the Egyptian foreign ministry knows nothing.

He added that the Egyptian foreign ministry asked the Egyptian embassy in Washington to take inventory of the number of Egyptians imprisoned in the United States. He also stated that the Egyptian consulate began taking steps to inventory the numbers of Egyptians imprisoned and being held up in investigations in various cases in the United States. He also added that among those imprisoned and whose files the consulate has studied is Shaykh 'Umar 'Abd-al-Rahman, the mufti of al-Jama'a al-Islamiyya, and who is currently imprisoned in America.

Zahir closed his remarks by saying: "In my character as an international expert on counterterrorism, corruption, and money laundering, I ask the Egyptian government to direct to the Americans accused in the case of unlawful foreign funding of unlawful civil society organizations the accusation of "supporting and funding terrorism" within Egypt. This is because all of the physical and solid evidence confirms their involvement in supporting terrorism in Egypt. This is what verily happened in Muhammad Mahmoud Street, Shaykh Rihan Street, and Mansur Street, and in the events of the Ministers' Council. If this accusation is directed against them, they will be condemned to death by hanging, or to do hard labor for life. This will force the American administration to carry out all the Egyptian requests, at the forefront the release of all Egyptians being held in American prisons and the amendment of the terms of American aid, to where they give cash like they do to the Israelis, rather than giving commodities which don't provide any benefit to Egypt to the degree that it diminishes Egyptian sovereignty."