NEW YORK (Aug. 25)
Jewish groups and politicians are reacting with satisfaction to the federal indictments that have been brought against Egyptian cleric Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman and Muslim activist El Sayyid Nosair.
The indictments were unsealed in New York federal court Wednesday, charging the blind cleric with taking part in the Feb. 26 bombing of the World Trade Center and a subsequent alleged plot to blow up the United Nations and other targets here.
Charges were also brought against Mohammed Abouhalima, brother of Mahmud Abouhalima, the alleged mastermind of the trade center bomb.
Abdel-Rahman was also charged with conspiracy to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
The cleric had been awaiting deportation on immigration charges but is now expected to remain in U.S. custody.
The indictment also brings federal charges against Nosair in connection with the November 1990 killing of Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the militant Jewish Defense League and the anti-Arab Kach movement.
Nosair was acquitted of state charges of murdering Kahane in a controversial jury trial that ended in December 1991, but he is now serving a prison term of seven to 22 years for assault and weapons possession in connection with the Kahane shooting.
The new charges brought against Nosair use the sweeping federal RICO Act to charge him with engaging in a racketeering conspiracy to murder Kahane.
‘THE FORCE BEHIND THESE PLOTS’
“For a long time I’ve talked about Sheik Rahman as the force behind these plots,” said New York state Assemblyman Dov Hikind of Brooklyn, who, along with U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.), was allegedly targeted for assassination by the sheik’s followers.
“I’m happy that the Justice Department has finally recognized his involvement,” Hikind told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “I did not want him to be deported. I look forward to his being tried and convicted on these charges.”
The indictment against the sheik brought a call for the death sentence from D’Amato.
“I applaud the Justice Department’s courage in standing up to terrorists,” he said in a statement. “If Sheik Rahman is found guilty, he should be given the most severe penalty possible. All terrorists who take innocent lives deserve the death penalty.”
Six people died and 1,000 were wounded in the World Trade Center blast.
Binyamin Kahane, son of the murdered rabbi and director of Kahane Chai, a movement of the rabbi’s followers, said “a deep-rooted conspiracy involving many people connected to the Kahane killing” is “precisely what we have been shouting about for the last three years.”
Jeffrey Sinensky, director of civil rights for the Anti-Defamation League, said his agency is “gratified by the most recent steps taken by the government to address the danger of Islamic fundamentalism. That fundamentalism is a danger abroad is no surprise.” But now “it has reared its ugly head on our shores.”