In a conference in Cairo supporting Sheikh Umar Abd Al-Rahman, who was convicted and imprisoned in the U.S. for his involvement in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, speakers threatened additional terrorist attacks against American targets if their leader in not released. Following are excerpts from a report about the conference, published in the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat, on April 25, 2001:
"The Sheikh's defense attorney, Muntasir Al-Zayyat said, 'When the Jihad organization (which the Sheikh heads) found out that the CIA was involved in the extradition of three of its people, from Albania to Egypt, it decided to get involved in the bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. Therefore, once [the US] harms a cleric at the level of Sheikh Abd Al-Rahman, the revenge will be [accordingly] stronger and more violent and its impact wider.'"
"The conference convened in solidarity with Sheikh Umar Abd Al-Rahman's son and wife, who were denied entry visas by the American authorities."
Attorney Al-Zayyat said that the Muslim world "will not allow the indefinite humiliation of a cleric of the Al-Azhar institution, and the leader of the biggest Muslim organization in the world. The Sheikh has a privileged position not only within the Jihad organization, but also among all the fundamentalist organizations around the world. Despite the fact that the Sheikh's attorneys attempted to resolve the problem through the courts, while the leaders of his organization Al-Jama'ah Al-Islamiya practice restraint, it is inevitable that, as a revenge for hurting the honorable Sheikh, one or a few of those who love the Sheikh will turn to carrying out acts against American interests around the world."
Al-Zayyat, however, excluded the possibility that such attacks would take place on Egyptian soil. He expressed hope that the new American administration will "listen to the voice of reason and release Abd Al-Rahman so not to aggravate the hostility of the Muslim world, which suspects that the US is acting against anything that is Arab and Muslim."
"We warn and warn," Al-Zayyat added, "The U.S. will reap a bitter harvest if she continues humiliating Dr. Umar...the continuation of the Sheikh's abuse may result in an explosion of events targeted against US interests. Sheikh Umar has many followers."
The head of Abd Al-Rahman's defense team, Dr. Abd Al-Halim Mansur, placed the responsibility for the Sheikh's life on US President George Bush, and said that if any harm is done to the Sheikh, "the consequences will be disastrous." Mansur argues that the Americans use the Sheikh as a bargaining chip to pressure the Egyptian government. He states, "Every once in a while they hint that they will return the Sheikh to Egypt in order to scare the senior Egyptian leadership and prevent them from taking responsibility for the Sheikh's life...."