The Daily Beast’s Eli Lake reports that a member of a U.S.-designated terrorist organization has been invited to meet with senior Obama administration officials in Washington.
It was supposed to be a routine meeting for Egyptian legislators in Washington, an opportunity for senior Obama administration officials to meet with new members of Egypt’s parliament and exchange ideas on the future of relations between the two countries.
Instead, the visit this week looks like it’s turning into a political fiasco. Included in the delegation of Egyptian lawmakers was Hani Nour Eldin, who, in addition to being a newly elected member of parliament, is a member of the Gamaa Islamiya, or the Egyptian Islamic Group—a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. The group was banned under former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, and is now a recognized Islamist political party. Its spiritual leader, Omar Abdel Rahman—also known as the “blind sheik”—was convicted in 1995 of plotting attacks on New York City landmarks and transportation centers, and is serving a life sentence in a North Carolina federal prison.
Eldin, according to his Facebook page, was born in 1968 and resides in Suez, near the canal that unites the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea. He was arrested in 1993 on terrorism charges after members of Gamaa Islamiya got into a shoot out with Egyptian security officials at a mosque. He has proclaimed his innocence in the shooting and says he was arrested because of his political activism against Mubarak.
Eldin confirmed in an interview that he was a member of Gamaa Islamiya. As Lake notes, that ought to bar him from obtaining a visa to enter the country. But Eldin did receive a visa. A State Department spokesman said the agency had “no information suggesting that he or anyone else in the delegation is a member of the Egyptian Islamic Group.”