Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
3 - 9 June 1999
Issue No. 432
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

 
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Pre-emptive strike against Jihad

By Jailan Halawi

State security prosecutors are currently questioning a member of the clandestine Jihad group, who was extradited to Egypt by Azerbaijan last September, before putting him on trial by a military court.

The suspect, Ihab Saqr, is accused of belonging to an illegal group that aims at overthrowing the government through violence.

Saqr left Egypt in the late 1980s along with two leading Jihad figures -- Ahmed Salama Mabrouk, believed to be the main aide to Jihad leader Ayman El-Zawahri, and Essameddin Hafez, who has dual Egyptian-Canadian nationality.

The three were arrested in Azerbaijan, shortly after their arrival from Afghanistan, and were extradited to Egypt last September.

Mabrouk and Hafez were tried by a military tribunal in the case dubbed by the Arabic-language press as the "returnees from Albania". Last March, the court sentenced Mabrouk to life imprisonment and Hafez to 15 years. El-Zawahri, who was tried in absentia, was sentenced to death.

But Saqr was not included in the case, although police accused him of being a prominent Jihad figure who had been involved in planning terrorist attacks staged by the group back home.

Prosecution authorities have turned down a request for Saqr's release submitted by his lawyer, Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maksoud.

The request was based on the fact that Saqr's name has not been mentioned in any of the cases of Islamist violence brought to military or civil courts or in militants' "confessions".

Interior Minister Habib El-Adli, acting on the authority of the emergency law in force since the 1981 assassination of President Anwar El-Sadat, ordered that Saqr be detained following his extradition. The emergency law empowers police forces to detain suspects for long periods without putting them on trial.

State security prosecutors, who took over from the Interior Ministry, have ordered that Saqr be remanded in custody for a renewable period of 15 days, pending a trial. Sentences handed down by military courts cannot be appealed.

In another blow to Islamist militants, police arrested 22 members of the underground Talae'i Al-Fateh, Vanguards of Conquest, on charges of attempting to revive the group's activities in the Nile Delta province of Sharqiya.

The suspects, who are being questioned by state security prosecutors, have been remanded in custody for 15 days.

The crackdown is part of the Interior Ministry's pre-emptive strategy aimed at aborting terrorist attacks before they take place.

Police say they acted after obtaining information that Ahmed Abdel-Halim, an expatriate militant, instructed his followers back home to recruit new members with the aim of reviving the group's activities.

Investigations showed that suspects Ahmed Okasha and Ahmed Eissa held several meetings to spread the group's ideology among new recruits and organised para-military training camps for them.

In another development, police last week released Nasreddin Mohamed El-Dogheimi, described as a member of the underground Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiya, who turned himself in after several years on the run in the area of Garf Hussein in the southern province of Sohag.

Police sources said investigations proved that, as a fugitive, the suspect had not indulged in any illegal activities.

Since El-Adli took charge of the interior affairs portfolio following the Luxor massacre of November 1997, a large number of detained militants, who renounced violence, have been quietly released.

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