The family of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman – known as the Blind Sheikh – issued a statement on Sunday demanding that Foreign Minister Kamel Amr appear in front of MPs to explain his failure to request the sheikh's release from jail in the US.
Abdel Rahman was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1996 for his role in planning the 1993 World Trade Centre attack in New York. He is seen as the spiritual leader of Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya, which launched a campaign of violence across Egypt during the 1990s, culminating in the 1997 Luxor temple attack that killed 62 people. The group has since renounced violence and has 13 MPs in Egypt's newly elected parliament.
The statement compared the US government's vigorous response to the arrest of its citizens for allegedly violating NGO licensing laws, with the lack of Egyptian pressure for Abdel Rahman's release.
The Egyptian government should offer to exchange the sheikh for the US NGO workers currently being detained in Egypt, the statement recommended.
The sheikh's family will hold a press conference on Saturday 18 February at the sit-in outside the US embassy in Cairo, which has been ongoing since 13 August. Supporters will then march to the High Court to demand the release of all political detainees in Egypt, including Islamists, and the return of the exiled radical Sheikh Wagdy Ghonim.