The U.S. State Department is refusing to answer questions about internal discussions on Egypt’s demands to release the so-called “Blind Sheikh,” the radical Islamist cleric who Egypt’s new leader wants turned over to his country’s custody.
After a report by TheBlaze citing a source close to the Obama Administration saying there have been conversations within the State Department about whether to consider a change in custody of Omar Abdel Rahman, aka the “Blind Sheikh,” a group of Congressional leaders released a copy of a letter sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder calling it “extremely disconcerting” that his release might be considered.
Rahman is serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison after being convicted following the World Trade Center attack in 1993 on charges of plotting a campaign of assassinations and bombings. Egypt’s newly elected President Mohammed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, has publicly promised to work for Rahman’s release.
After initially deferring inquiries to the Justice Department, today State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland officially denied plans to release Rahman.
“Let me say as clearly as I can, there is no plan to release the Blind Sheikh – there is no plan,” Nuland said. “To my knowledge we have not been approached about it recently by any senior Egyptians.”
Those comments echo the previous response from the DOJ: “The assertion that the Blind Sheikh may be transferred to Egypt is utter garbage,” DOJ spokesman Dean Boyd told TheBlaze. “The Blind Sheikh is not being transferred to Egypt nor is he being released. He is serving life sentence in federal prison. Suggestions that there are discussions to transfer or release him are absolute garbage and completely false.”
The State Department, however, has not commented on whether there were any internal discussions about possibly engaging with Egypt in a dialog about Rahman or how the State Department is responding to Morsi. Follow-up questions submitted by TheBlaze in writing and through phone calls to the press office have not been answered.
Sources close to the Obama Administration told TheBlaze earlier this week that the State Department has discussed internally whether to engage in talks to transfer custody Rahman.
A veteran intelligence analyst and researcher for TheBlaze said he met with an official within the Obama administration who told him that the transfer of the Blind Sheikh to Egypt is something that is being “actively considered” by the administration as a solution to the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. His source asked not to be identified.
Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, who was the lead prosecutor in the Rahman case, told TheBlaze that it is plausible that the Obama Administration would consider discussing Rahman’s release considering Obama’s pattern of “trying to mollify Islamists.”
After 20 years in a U.S. prison, Rahman resurfaced in the news after the Arab Spring toppled the former government of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and brought Morsi to power. Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, said in a speech while he was still president-elect that he would work to free Rahman.
Rahman has a sordid history as an Islamic extremist that led up to his conviction in the U.S. after the World Trade Center attack in 1993. Some Middle East experts have connected the recent protests in Egypt as part of an effort to press for Rahman’s release rather just a response to the perceived offense related to an amateur film released in America that mocks Islam.