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Morsi to urge Obama to free blind sheikh

08 January 2013, 09:11

Washington - Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has said he will urge US President Barack Obama to free the blind sheikh jailed for the 1993 World Trade Centre attack.

Morsi told CNN in an interview aired on Monday that he was hoping to travel to the United States before the end of March 2013, and he planned to raise the case of Omar Abdul Rahman, serving a life sentence in a US prison.

"There is no set date yet, but it will most likely be before the end of the first quarter of this year," Morsi said.

It will be the Islamist leader's first visit to the United States since he was elected last year after the overthrow of long-time Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak.

Relations between the United States and its key regional ally, Egypt, have been complicated since Morsi's election with Washington treading carefully amid a series of controversial and widely criticized moves by Morsi.

Morsi repeated his view of the blind sheikh saying: "I want him to be free." But he added: "I respect the law. And the rule of law in Egypt and the United States."

If the ailing and ageing Abdul Rahman cannot be freed, then Morsi suggested he should be allowed visitation rights with his family and children.

"Is there a chance for him to be freed? I wish this," Morsi said, but if not then "Egypt's relationship with America deserves that these issues be reviewed, if that is okay according to the law.

Other issues

"If it isn't possible, and I hope that it is possible, if it wasn't possible, then these humane aspects need to be taken into account, for him to be in a humane prison, to be able to have visitors, to be able to have company."

Abdul Rahman, the spiritual leader of the radical Jamaa Islamiya group, was convicted in 1995 for his role in the attack, in which six people were killed and hundreds injured when a truck bomb was detonated in the building's garage.

He was also convicted of plotting to bomb other New York targets including the United Nations and a plan to assassinate Mubarak and is believed to be serving his term in a North Carolina jail.

In September, State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland stressed there was no plan to release him following his trial and conviction.

Morsi said he also wanted to discuss other issues with Obama, such as co-operation in scientific research, manufacturing and production, and tourism.



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