The new chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee is urging the Barack Obama administration to reject an expected request from the president of Egypt to ease prison conditions or release a blind Islamist cleric convicted of terrorism-related offenses.
The Justice Department has already made clear it will not release Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, convicted in 1995 year of plotting to blow up New York City landmarks. But conservative lawmakers remained concerned about the Egyptian-born Rahman, a spiritual leader of the group convicted of exploding a truck bomb at the World Trade Center in a 1993.
“Releasing a terrorist who plotted against the United States and has American blood on his hands would be seen as a sign of weakness throughout the Muslim extremist world,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the homeland committee chairman, said in a statement published by the Houston Chronicle.
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi said in an interview aired Monday with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that he intended to press President Obama in an upcoming meeting to release the cleric, who has become a cause celebre for some extremist Egyptians. Morsi is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization that aims to implement Islamic law in Egypt.
No consideration is being given to releasing him or transferring him to another country to complete his sentence,” Judith C. Appelbaum, the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legislative affairs, and her counterpart at the State Department, said in a letter in October to members of Congress.
Morsi said in the CNN interview that if release isn’t possible, “humane aspects need to be taken into account.”
“For him to be in a humane prison, to be able to have visitors, to be able to have company, to be able to visit with his sons and children, for his family to visit, for us to see him, for people to see him and know how he is doing. Because he is a man, an old man, and he deserves full care,” Morsi said. Abdel Rahman is 74 and housed in the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina.
Abdel Rahman’s attorney, Lynne Stewart, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2010 for secretly facilitating banned communications between the imprisoned sheikh and his followers.