Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
13 - 19 May 1999
Issue No. 429
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Index of issues This week's issue

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Militant sought from Canada

By Jailan Halawi.

Canadian authorities recently arrested an Egyptian Islamist accused of involvement in the 1981 assassination of President Anwar El-Sadat and confined him in a prison near Toronto airport, reports Jailan Halawi. Islamist sources identified the militant as Mahmoud Sayed Gaballah, who left Egypt in 1991.

Gaballah had been charged twice in connection with activities of the underground Jihad group, the first in 1981 when he was found innocent, and the second in 1987, when he was also found innocent.

Gaballah had been arrested and released several times when he left Egypt in 1991 with his wife and children.

After spending three months in an Arab country, Gaballah headed to Pakistan, where he spent four years working in a school connected to an Arab relief agency, while his wife worked as a teacher at another school.

Gaballah left Pakistan to Canada after Pakistani authorities started deporting Egyptian Islamist militants living there upon the request of the Egyptian government. He arrived in Toronto on 11 May 1996 and applied for political asylum, which was not granted. However, he and his family were given residence permits to be renewed each year.

Islamist sources accused the Canadian authorities of yielding to pressure by the Egyptian government to arrest and extradite Gaballah.

The sources also denied that Gaballah had any links to a Canadian Islamist, Essameddin Mohamed Hafez, who was handed over to Egypt last September by Azerbaijan. Hafez was sentenced to 15 years by a military tribunal last month.

In another development, Egyptian prosecution authorities made an unprecedented move by releasing an Islamist extradited by Ecuador last year. The release came after interrogation proved that the man had not done anything illegal during his 10-year stay abroad.

Ecuadorian authorities had arrested Mohamed Ebeid Abdel-Aal last November as he arrived from Columbia. He was interrogated for three days about terrorist attacks committed in Egypt during the past years. He was then extradited to Egypt upon the government's request.

Following his release by prosecution authorities, Abdel-Aal was re-arrested by police, acting under the authority of the Emergency Law, which gives them sweeping powers to detain militants for long periods.

An Islamist lawyer praised the prosecutor's decision, describing it as "fair". Sources added that after interrogating Abdel-Aal for six months, the prosecution found him innocent of charges linking him to the 1997 Luxor massacre, in which 58 tourists and four Egyptians were killed.

Investigations, witnesses and the suspect's testimony proved that he has no links with extremist groups. The sources said that Abdel-Aal suffers from liver cirrhosis and needs immediate treatment.

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