Member of Egyptian Terror Group Goes to Washington
by ELI LAKE
June 22, 2012
It was supposed to be a routine meeting for Egyptian legislators in Washington, an opportunity for senior Obama administration officials to meet with new members of Egypt's parliament and exchange ideas on the future of relations between the two countries.
Instead, the visit this week looks like it's turning into a political fiasco. Included in the delegation of Egyptian lawmakers was Hani Nour Eldin, who, in addition to being a newly elected member of parliament, is a member of the Gamaa Islamiya, or the Egyptian Islamic Group-a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. The group was banned under former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, and is now a recognized Islamist political party. Its spiritual leader, Omar Abdel Rahman-also known as the "blind sheik"-was convicted in 1995 of plotting attacks on New York City landmarks and transportation centers, and is serving a life sentence in a North Carolina federal prison.
Eldin, according to his Facebook page, was born in 1968 and resides in Suez, near the canal that unites the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea. He was arrested in 1993 on terrorism charges after members of Gamaa Islamiya got into a shoot out with Egyptian security officials at a mosque. He has proclaimed his innocence in the shooting and says he was arrested because of his political activism against Mubarak.
In an interview, Eldin confirmed he is a member of Gamaa Islamiya. By U.S. law, that means he would be denied a visa to enter the country. Nonetheless, he says, he got a visa from the State Department. A State Department spokesman said, "We have no information suggesting that he or anyone else in the delegation is a member of the Egyptian Islamic Group."
Eldin said in the interview that he is not a terrorist. "I have taken the American visa from the embassy as a member of the parliament representing a political party that has been elected and is a legitimate party," he said. "I was personally not involved in any violent action or terrorism against the United States or any other country. The years I spent in prison were under the regime of Mubarak, these were political charges and there was no judicial basis for them."
In his meetings with senior Obama administration officials, Eldin says, he asked Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough about transferring Abdel-Rahman to an Egyptian prison. He said his request was declined. "When I raised this issue in the White House I was told it was not in their authority and all judicial issues relating to sentences must be discussed with the Department of Justice," he says. Transferring Abdel-Rahman, says Eldin, "would be a gift to the revolution." McDonough didn't reply to requests for comment made Thursday afternoon.