5 - 11 August 1999
Issue No. 441
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
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Global crackdownBy Jailan Halawi
An Egyptian prosecutor on Sunday ordered into preventative custody 14 suspected members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood on charges of belonging to an "illegal organisation", security sources said.
Security forces had last Thursday arrested 15 suspected members of the Brotherhood, including doctors, teachers and engineers, allegedly during a meeting of the group in Giza. One of the suspects was later released on health grounds. Pamphlets, books and recordings outlining the philosophy of the dissolved organisation were seized during the raid, the police say.
The detainees were suspected of trying to "reactivate the dissolved organisation and hinder the implementation of the constitution", a security source said.
The move came two weeks after 11 other Brotherhood suspects were arrested for possession of "illegal leaflets" and for trying to recruit new members into the organisation.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in 1927, was banned in 1954 by then President Gamal Abdel-Nasser. It was tolerated but not officially recognised by the authorities after 1976 until Egypt was hit by a wave of extremist Islamist violence in 1992. Egyptian authorities have accused the group of encouraging violence but the Brotherhood insists that it is seeking to establish an Islamic state through peaceful means.
In a related development, Saudi Arabia has extradited a suspected Islamist militant, Magdi Ibrahim El-Naggar, to Egypt where he is accused of involvement with militant groups abroad, according to the London-based Islamic Observatory, which monitors the treatment of Islamists by Middle Eastern governments.
El-Naggar arrived in Cairo Friday and is allegedly being "tortured and interrogated about links with Islamists abroad", said a statement from the Islamic Observatory.
An Egyptian military court had in April cleared El-Naggar, who was being tried in absentia, of charges linking him to Saudi billionaire Osama bin Laden, whom the United States accuses of masterminding bomb attacks on its embassies in Africa last August.
The Islamic Observatory claimed El-Naggar was investigated in a case known as the "returnees from Albania", but gave no further details about his alleged activities.
Friday's reported extradition took place following a drive among Arab states to increase cooperation on judicial matters.
Egyptian Minister of Interior Maj. Gen. Habib El-Adli flew to Saudi Arabia on Sunday to take part in a meeting of Arab interior ministers on Arab security, aimed at producing an Arab agreement to fight terrorism.
In the United States, despite an immigration court decision to grant Egyptian Islamist Nasser Ahmed political asylum, the US Justice Department refused to release him from prison. Ahmed, one of imprisoned Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman's top aides, has been in prison in New York for the past 39 months.
Abdin Gabara, Ahmed's lawyer and former chairman of the Arab American Committee Against Discrimination, said that the US Justice Department had filed an appeal immediately afterwards requesting that Ahmed remain in prison in relation to the suit over his deportation. In this matter, the department relied on "secret evidence" proving the threat he presents to US national security.
Gabara said that Judge Daniel Livingstone was the same judge who had previously ruled that Ahmed should be deported to Egypt and be refused political asylum in the United States.
Later however; the judge reviewed the "secret evidence after three sessions and looked at new witnesses and documents from Egypt and the United States which confirmed that Ahmed was never a member of a terrorist organisation and that all the accusations against him, especially that he is in contact with Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiya and is one of the planners of terrorist operations, are all false," Gabara said.
Gabara added that Ahmed's case could be reviewed by federal courts in six months, though the procedures for his release could take many years.
There are currently 24 suits in US courts to expel Arab asylum-seekers on the basis of "secret evidence", of which 23 are against Muslims. "So far we have won three cases filed for the expulsion of Islamists," Gabara said.
Ahmed was arrested in April 1996 and was held in a prison in Manhattan, New York, after he was accused of leaking a statement by Abdel-Rahman, who is himself serving a life sentence in a US prison for sedition (conspiring to blow up New York landmarks). In the statement, Abdel-Rahman asks his followers to carry out vengeful operations against Americans everywhere in the world in response to his maltreatment in prison.
The statement was released to coincide with the terrorist attack which took place outside the Europa Hotel on the Pyramids Road in Giza, killing 18 Greek tourists.
US authorities made a link between this attack and Ahmed because he worked as an interpreter and legal aide to Abdel-Rahman.
Ahmed Abdel-Sattar, Abdel-Rahman's legal aid and chairman of the Justice Committee made up of Arab Muslims in New York, praised the court's asylum ruling, and predicted that the US authorities will fail to have it overturned during the period allowed for an appeal.
"The Americans are trying to take revenge against Ahmed because he refused their offer to release him and give him US citizenship in return for his cooperation," Abdel-Sattar claimed.
According to Abdel-Sattar, 23 Islamist residents of the US face deportation to their home countries and are being held away from their families. "The US administration is dealing with all Muslims as terrorists and anyone who expresses his opinion freely finds FBI agents in his house the next day and is prone to being detained," he said.
Islamists in Egypt told Al-Ahram Weekly that they "welcomed" the court's asylum ruling, describing it as "a great victory against US anti-Islamic policies".