US rejects appeal by human rights group for release of Blind Sheikh

Ahram Online, Tuesday 27 Dec 2011

US ambassador rejects appeal by Egyptian human rights group to repatriate Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman who is currently held in US facilities.

Omar Abdel Rahman
Omar Abdel Rahman

The US ambassador to Egypt has refused a request by an Egyptian human rights group for help in the repatriation on health grounds of Omar Abdel Rahman, ‘the Blind Sheikh’, to Egypt.

Abdel Rahman, the spiritual leader of Egypt's Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya, has been held in US-based facilities for involvement in the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing.

In November 2011, the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR) asked the Egyptian authorities and the US Embassy in Cairo to work with the US administration for the release of Abdel Rahman who they claimed was suffering from a multitude of health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, stomach ailments, chronic headaches and an inflammation of the pancreas.

However, US Ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson, responded by saying that Abdel Rahamn is getting all the medical attention he needs.

“The US Federal Prison System has gone to great lengths to provide Mr. Omar Abdel Rahman with the best possible medical care, specifically: Mr. Abdel Rahman’s medical conditions are being managed appropriately and he is medically stable,” Patterson said. “He is regularly evaluated by a team of healthcare professionals, including a physician, a physician assistant and a registered nurse.”

According to EOHR, in addition to his ailing health, the Sheikh is not allowed visitors and the last time he received a guest was in 1999 when his wife was allowed to see him. He is also permitted only two 15-minute phone calls per month, and was subjected to solitary confinement for 18 years.

Salafists and supporters of Abdel Rahman began putting pressure for his release since April 2011 and held several protests in front of the US embassy.  In August, his family and supporters began a sit-in in front of the US mission in downtown Cairo.

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