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Moslem Fundamentalist Leader Detained Despite Court Release

August 11, 1989

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Authorities invoked emergency regulations to continue holding a blind Moslem fundamentalist cleric and his followers on charges of anti-government activity, a government source said today.

A judge had ordered the release of Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman and the 23 other defendants behind bars. But the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Interior Minister Zaki Badr cited a 1981 emergency law to keep them locked up.

Abdel-Rahman, a former religion professor, twice was acquitted of charges linked to the assassination by Moslem extremists of President Anwar Sadat on Oct. 6, 1981.

That event that led to the emergency law, which gives police broad powers of search and arrest without charge and bans unauthorized demonstrations and strikes.

In its fight against violence-prone extremists seeking immediate implementation of Islamic law, the government previously has used the emergency law to justify continued detention of fundamentalists freed by courts during trial.

Mohammed Kamal Samaha, president of the three-member security court that opened the current trial Sunday, ordered Abdel-Rahman and the others freed on Thursday and adjourned hearings until October. He set no bail and gave no reasons for the release order.

As he read it, shouts of ″long live justice 3/8″ rose from the defendants’ cage and spectators’ section in the courtroom, a converted former exhibition hall in a state fairground.

But the leading government-owned Cairo newspaper, Al-Ahram, reported that Interior Minister Badr immediately issued new arrest orders because the defendants are ″dangerous to public order.″

The current trial involves 54 defendants, but only 25 were in custody.

Charges in the case stem from an April 7 demonstration by fundamentalists led by Abdel-Rahman in the southern city of Fayoum, his hometown.

The cleric and the others face charges of illegal possession of weapons, attempting to kill a police officer and assault on people and public property. Conviction can be punishable by death.

Police rounded up about 1,500 fundamentalists in a nationwide crackdown after the Fayoum demonstration.

Abdel-Rahman, former professor of theology at Assiut University, was tried and acquitted on charges he inspired Sadat’s assassination. In a subsequent trial, he was acquitted of charges he instigated a coup attempt after Sadat’s slaying.

In both cases, the prosecution said Abdel-Rahman was the spiritual leader of an underground anti-government group called Jihad, or ″Holy War,″ that was dedicated to the overthrow of the government.

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