• 15:54
  • Sunday ,24 April 2011

Egypt Islamists demand cleric freed in rare protest

By-Shaimaa Fayed-Reuters

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Sunday ,24 April 2011

Egypt Islamists demand cleric freed in rare protest

CAIRO: Hundreds of supporters of a radical Muslim Egyptian cleric called on the United States to release him in a rare public demonstration by Islamists who have become more vocal since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted.

About 400 protesters, most of whom said they belonged to Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiya group, gathered near the heavily fortified US embassy in downtown Cairo to demand freedom for their spiritual leader Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman.
Abdel Rahman, a blind 73-year-old cleric, was jailed in 1995 and is serving a life sentence in the United States for plotting to attack the United Nations headquarters and other New York City landmarks.
The US government lists Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiya, or The Islamic Group, as a terrorist organization.
"The US administration, to appease [Egypt's] former regime, detained Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman ... and accused him without any evidence," Abdallah Abdel Rahman, the detained cleric's son, who was among the protesters, told Reuters.
Mubarak, who resigned in February after mass protests, suppressed Islamists he saw as a threat to his 30-year-rule through an emergency law that allowed for arbitrary detention.
"United States, enough torture, Dr. Omar is dear to us," the demonstrators chanted. Most of the men were dressed in the skull caps and flowing robes favored by fundamentalist Muslims and the female protesters wore full face veils.
The Gama'a is one of the Islamist groups that has emerged from the shadows in the post-Mubarak era.
The Gama'a, which wants to turn Egypt into a strict Islamic state, fought a low-level guerrilla war with the security forces in the 1990s. Its jailed leadership renounced violence in 1997, but Mubarak maintained tight restrictions on the group.
Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiya is part of the ultra-orthodox Salafi movement, which advocates a return to what they say are the practices of Islam during its earliest days.