Arab West Report Middle East Published Articles

Blind Sheikh’s Family Hosts Celebration for Freed Prisoners

Hassan Khalifa

At an open fast-breaking meal outside the sit-in protest for Omar Abdel Rahman at the US Embassy, Hassan Khalifa shed tears of joy as he concluded his ten minute speech.

‘I apologize for going long, but forgive me, it has been nineteen years that I have been in prison,’ he said.

On June 21 President Mohamed Morsy issued a pardon for 572 prisoners convicted in military trials. Of these, 25 were members of al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya or Islamic Jihad, groups still designated as ‘terrorist’ by the United States. Hassan Khalifa, now in a wheelchair, had been sentenced to death.

‘I praise God; I have never stopped speaking on behalf of al-Jama’a my entire life,’ he said, before switching to intercede for the Blind Sheikh.

‘Omar Abdel Rahman’s only crime was that he was the greatest one in worshipping God. He never ascribed to Islam anything that did not belong to it.’

Essam Derbala, who fifteen years ago led al-Jama’a in its Non-Violent Initiative to unilaterally give up terrorist techniques, presented Khalifa and others with a commemorative Qur’an.

Embraced in freedom

Others honored included:

  • Ahmed Abdel Qadir
  • Amr Gharib
  • Abdel Hamid al-Aqrab
  • Sheikh Abu al-Ai’ila
  • Ahmed Hammam
  • Atef Moussa
  • Attia Abdel Sami’
  • Mohamed al-Fouly
  • Hussein Fayed
  • Shawki Salama
  • Mohamed Yousry

Each of these warrants further investigation as to their crimes. I hope after further investigation to describe if these individuals were directly involved in terrorist activity and efforts to overthrow the government. Large numbers of al-Jama’a members and sympathizers were imprisoned upon association with the group, or even to pressure family members more deeply involved.

Essam Derbala

‘The United States has to stand with the people of the revolution and its demands, which include the release of Omar Abdel Rahman,’ said Essam Derbala. ‘Al-Jama’a will continue to exert all effort to obtain his freedom.’

Abdullah Omar Abdel Rahman (L), with brother Mohamed

Abdullah Omar Abdel Rahman, the Blind Sheikh’s son, added, ‘We congratulate the members of al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya who were released from prison. May God reward you for what you have endured.’

Abdel Rahman also relayed the testimony he received from Ahmed Raghib, the deputy minister for Egyptian affairs abroad in the Foreign Minister. Raghib told him Omar Abdel Rahman’s file was complete, awaiting only the signature of the military council or President Morsy. Once authorized, he said the Blind Sheikh would be back in Egypt ‘within hours’.

Mohamed al-Saghir

Mohamed al-Saghir, an Azhar sheikh and member of al-Jama’a’s Building and Development Party, added, ‘We tell the US administration, if you want to turn a new page with the Egyptian people, let us see your good intentions and release Omar Abdel Rahman.’

‘He was in solitary confinement for 19 years, but did nothing except call people to God.’

Abdel Akhir Hammad

Abdel Akhir Hammad is an Islamic legal scholar for al-Jama’a, and interceded for the Blind Sheikh as well.

‘They lie when they say he is responsible for the explosion of the World Trade Center in 1993; they are the first to know he is innocent.

‘We are not weaker than the government of Yemen which was able to secure the return of Mohamed al-Muayyid back to their country, from an American prison.

‘I call on Morsy to fulfill what he promised and pressure that oppressive nation which claims it defends human rights.’

Nageh Ibrahim

Nageh Ibrahim is another long-term leader of al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya. Along with Derbala and others he shaped the group’s Non-Violent Initiative.

‘We never expected a president who was part of the Islamist movement, but that day has come,’ he said.

‘From the first days of our initiative we have been waiting patiently for some of these people to be released.

‘But their release will not make us forget Omar Abdel Rahman.’

Nasr Abdel Salam

Nasr Abdel Salam is president of al-Jama’a’s Building and Development Party. He focused his words for prayer on the Blind Sheikh’s behalf, especially in the month of Ramadan.

‘God works with us as we work with him,’ he said. ‘So we must aid the right and God will aid us.

‘Let us return to God and ask him to support Muslims everywhere and free Omar Abdel Rahman from prison.’

As God is sovereign in all affairs, may he honor justice, have mercy, and bless those dedicated honestly to their cause.

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