Abdel-Rahman’s terrorist organization, Jamaa Islamiya, is a “radical offshoot” of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. Jamaa Islamiya was complicit in the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who was reviled among Islamists for making peace with Israel. Abdel-Rahman had issued a religious edict condemning Sadat to death. Jamaa Islamiya also tried to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 1995. To try to force the release of Abdel-Rahman from the U.S., Jamaa Islamiya murdered 62 people in Luxor, Egypt, in 1997.
In 2006 al Qaeda aligned itself with Jamaa Islamiya. At the time Ayman al-Zawahiri, then Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenant, said the two groups would form “one line, facing its enemies,” adding, “May God give us victory with his help.”
This past September 10, al-Zawahiri, now in charge of al Qaeda, released a video marking the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. He also called for fresh assaults against U.S. interests in retaliation for the drone-strike killing in June of his Libyan lieutenant, Abu Yahya al-Libi, in Waziristan.
Meanwhile, Abdel-Rahman’s now-disbarred lawyer, Lynne Stewart, also remains in prison. Stewart is serving a decade-long prison term for providing material support for terrorism by illegally passing on a message from Abdel-Rahman.
The communiqué was “the blessing of a return to violence from a terrorist leader,” prosecutor Anthony Barkow said during Stewart’s 2006 trial. In it, the sheikh urged disciples to abandon a ceasefire with the government of Egypt and resume terrorist operations.
Stewart has hailed Muslim fundamentalists as “forces of national liberation.” Americans on the left, “as persons who are committed to the liberation of oppressed people, should fasten on the need for self-determination, and allow people … to do what they need to do to throw off that oppression,” she told Monthly Review, a Marxist publication.
Stewart, a Maoist, has said she supports “violence directed at the institutions which perpetuate capitalism, racism and sexism, and at the people who are the appointed guardians of those institutions.”
Throughout the pre-sentencing process, Stewart argued that no one was actually hurt or killed as a result of the communiqué. The argument, familiar to criminal lawyers, is akin to a bank robber asking for leniency because the bank vault was empty.
Perhaps Stewart will petition President Obama to be transferred to Egypt as well.
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