Releasing the Blind Sheikh?
By Matthew Vadum
The Obama administration may give a get-out-of-jail-free card to an Islamic terrorist whose group helped to ignite a wave of deadly attacks last week against U.S. diplomatic missions in the Middle East.
The U.S. Department of State “is actively considering negotiations with the Egyptian government for the transfer of custody of Omar Abdel-Rahman, also known as ‘the Blind Sheikh,’ for humanitarian and health reasons,” The Blaze news website reported, citing a confidential source close to the Obama administration.
On September 10, the day before terrorists assaulted the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Abdel-Rahman’s terrorist organization demanded the release of the Blind Sheikh and all detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. His group, Jamaa Islamiya (also known as al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya or, in English, Islamic Group), is linked to al Qaeda. At least two of the other groups that demanded Abdel-Rahman’s release — Islamic Jihad and the Sunni Group— also have al Qaeda ties.
The new Islamist president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, considers Abdel-Rahman to be a U.S. political prisoner, and has asked the Obama administration to release him.
The Arabic language newspaper al-Arabiya reported more than six months ago that the Obama administration offered to send Abdel-Rahman to Egypt as part a prisoner swap. Called the “Emir of Jihad” by some, Abdel-Rahman is a spiritual leader to al Qaeda and other militant Islamist groups. He would almost certainly be hailed on his return to Egypt as a conquering hero for attacking America, the “Great Satan.”
It was unclear at press time if the 74-year-old Abdel-Rahman, convicted of “seditious conspiracy” in 1995 in connection with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, was suffering from any particular medical condition that might justify such a release. Now serving a term of life imprisonment in the United States, early in life he went blind after becoming diabetic.
The Blaze indicates the State Department has “neither confirmed nor denied the report,” but Dean Boyd, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, trashed the report. “The assertion that the Blind Sheikh may be transferred to Egypt is utter garbage.” Boyd piled on the rubbish metaphor adding that suggestions that there are “discussions to transfer or release him are absolute garbage and completely false.”
Of course it might be wise to take Boyd’s remarks with a grain of salt. Boyd works for the same Department of Justice that collaborates with the George Soros-funded attack group Media Matters for America to spin news deemed harmful to the Obama administration. Hard-driving investigative journalist Matthew Boyle of the Daily Caller reported yesterday that internal emails from the DoJ show that the pretend media watchdog works with embattled Attorney General Eric Holder’s communications staff “in an attempt to quell news stories about scandals plaguing Holder and America’s top law enforcement agency.”Abdel-Rahman’s terrorist organization, Jamaa Islamiya, is a “radical offshoot” of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. Jamaa Islamiya was complicit in the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who was reviled among Islamists for making peace with Israel. Abdel-Rahman had issued a religious edict condemning Sadat to death. Jamaa Islamiya also tried to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 1995. To try to force the release of Abdel-Rahman from the U.S., Jamaa Islamiya murdered 62 people in Luxor, Egypt, in 1997.
In 2006 al Qaeda aligned itself with Jamaa Islamiya. At the time Ayman al-Zawahiri, then Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenant, said the two groups would form “one line, facing its enemies,” adding, “May God give us victory with his help.”
This past September 10, al-Zawahiri, now in charge of al Qaeda, released a video marking the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. He also called for fresh assaults against U.S. interests in retaliation for the drone-strike killing in June of his Libyan lieutenant, Abu Yahya al-Libi, in Waziristan.
Meanwhile, Abdel-Rahman’s now-disbarred lawyer, Lynne Stewart, also remains in prison. Stewart is serving a decade-long prison term for providing material support for terrorism by illegally passing on a message from Abdel-Rahman.
The communiqué was “the blessing of a return to violence from a terrorist leader,” prosecutor Anthony Barkow said during Stewart’s 2006 trial. In it, the sheikh urged disciples to abandon a ceasefire with the government of Egypt and resume terrorist operations.
Stewart has hailed Muslim fundamentalists as “forces of national liberation.” Americans on the left, “as persons who are committed to the liberation of oppressed people, should fasten on the need for self-determination, and allow people … to do what they need to do to throw off that oppression,” she told Monthly Review, a Marxist publication.
Stewart, a Maoist, has said she supports “violence directed at the institutions which perpetuate capitalism, racism and sexism, and at the people who are the appointed guardians of those institutions.”
Throughout the pre-sentencing process, Stewart argued that no one was actually hurt or killed as a result of the communiqué. The argument, familiar to criminal lawyers, is akin to a bank robber asking for leniency because the bank vault was empty.
Perhaps Stewart will petition President Obama to be transferred to Egypt as well.