Egyptian parliamentarian Hani Nour Eldin, a member of a Gamaa Islamiya (Egyptian Islamic Group) – U.S.-designated terrorist group – was invited to join a delegation of lawmaker to visit Washington D.C., according to report by Eli Lake that originally appeared in the Daily Beast. The spiritual leader of Gamaa Islamiya, Omar Abdel Rahman – who is known as ‘the blind sheik’ – is currently serving a life sentence in the U.S. for plotting terrorist attacks in New York City. Gamaa Islamiya was banned under the government of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, but is now a recognized Islamist political party in the North African country. Eldin is officially a member of the Building and Development party in the Egyptian parliament, which some have linked to Gamaa Islamiya.
As a member of designated terrorist organization, Eldin would normally be barred from obtaining a visa for entry into the U.S. Nonetheless, Eldin said he was granted 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.”
Senior Obama administration officials met with Eldin and other members of the parliamentary delegation, according to the Daily Beast.
According to his Facebook page, Eldin was born in 1968. Eldin was once arrested in 1993 on terrorism charges following a shoot out between Gamaa Islamiya and Egyptian security forces at a mosque. Nonetheless, Eldin proclaims his innocence while claiming that his arrest came about because of his political activism. Eldin has confirmed his membership in Gamaa Islamiya.
Eldin said that in his meetings with senior Obama administration officials, he asked Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough about transferring ‘blind sheik’ Abdel-Rahman to an Egyptian prison. Eldin said his request was declined. According to the Daily Beast, “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.”
‘Blind sheik’ Rahman is still serving a life sentence in North Carolina for masterminding the 1993 terrorist bombing attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. He remains a hero to Muslim terrorists worldwide, including Al-Qaeda.
Observers in Washington D.C. expressed surprise at the apparent mistake by the Obama administration. For example, Samuel Tadros, an Egypt native and researcher at the Hudson Institute, said “It would have taken the State Department five seconds to Google his name in Arabic and realize he is a member of a designated terrorist organization.”
During his tour of the U.S. capital, Eldin also visited the Wilson Center, a think tank that specializes in foreign policy issues. A State Department spokesman said the delegation was “invited to Washington by the Wilson Center. I refer you to the Wilson Center for any additional information on their visit.” However, a Wilson Center spokesman said that the delegation was actually chosen by the State Department. “We can’t speak to the background of Eldin,” said Drew Sample the media relations coordinator for the Wilson Center. “The Wilson Center was one of the places on the delegation’s Washington visit. We did not invite these people, the State Department arranged the visit.”