Early on Friday afternoon, supporters of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman numbering in the tens marched through Tahrir Square to demand his release and return to the homeland. The Egyptian Jihadi is serving a life sentence in the United States for his role in the first, 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City. The marchers, who included Abdel Rahman’s family, chanted “The People want Omar Abdel Rahman” as they crossed the square from one end to the other.
Some were stunned by the presence of Islamists despite the boycott of the sit-in, on-going for 13 days now, by all major organisations of the political Islam.
Abdallah Abdel Rahman, the Jihadi’s son, told MENA that this rally was simply for the release of his father and is not related to or organised by any Islamic organisations
Born in the Nile Delta governorate of Daqahliya in 1938, the Blind Sheikh, as he is sometimes known in the west, was trained as a religious scholar at Al Azhar but became a pariah of the establishment when he started attacking the late President Sadat; his fiery invective against western decadence and Soviet godlessness quickly gathered a following, especially among the young, and while leading the Jama’a Islamiyah, he played a key role in the emergence of Ayman El Zawahri’s Al Jihad. Implicated in the assassination of Sadat in 1981, he was acquitted but kept in jail for three years; Mubarak ordered him out of the country in 1984. He joined the Jihad against the Russians in Afghanistan and eventually, following Saudi intercession, settled in the US – where he preached hatred among the Muslim community there.
Accused of masterminding the World Trade Center bombing, he was tried and received a life sentence long before 9/11.
Supporters of Abdel Rahman around the world have since charged Washington with framing its Cold War ally for a crime he did not commit, demanding his release.
In Egypt, since the fall of Mubarak last February, Islamist organisations that had supported the Blind Sheikh’s cause for years staged a series of protests outside the United States Embassy in Garden City in an attempt to put pressure on the Obama administration to release him.