URGENT Sheik Abdel-Rahman Indicted In Bomb Plot
NEW YORK (AP) _ A radical Muslim cleric whose followers have been charged in the World Trade Center bombing and a plot to blow up other towers and tunnels in New York City was indicted in the case for the first time Wednesday.
Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman and three others - including the man accused of assassinating militant Rabbi Meir Kahane - also were charged in the federal indictment with conspiring to murder Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Kahane’s alleged assassin, El Sayyid A. Nosair, was indicted on new charges in that killing. Nosair was acquitted of state murder charges but is in state prison on a related weapons conviction.
The new indictment alleges that 11 men previously charged with a failed plot to bomb the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, the George Washington Bridge and a building housing FBI offices were also involved in the Feb. 26 World Trade Center blast. That attack killed six people, injured more than 1,000 and displaced hundreds of businesses for weeks.
Many of the defendants were followers of Abdel-Rahman, 55, who preached at mosques in Brooklyn and Jersey City.
The Egyptian cleric has been in federal custody in Otisville, N.Y., since July 2, after an immigration judge ordered him deported.
Named with Abdel-Rahman and Nosair in the alleged plot to assassinate Mubarak were Mohammed Abouhalima, the brother of a defendant in the Trade Center bombing, and Abdo Mohammed Haggag, who was arrested on a similar charge last month.
The federal indictment charges Nosair with racketeering for having murdered Kahane by shooting him to death at a Manhattan hotel. It said that he also attempted to kill a U.S. postal officer as he fled.
Nosair is seen as a hero to young Muslim radicals and many of those charged earlier in the two cases were known to have supported him during his trial and visited him in prison.
The new indictment had been promised a month ago by prosecutors who were transcribing hundreds of hours of tape recordings captured by a government informant who had become a close confidant of Abdel-Rahman.
Based on information from the informant, authorities arrested 11 men who allegedly plotted to bomb the United Nations, the building housing the FBI and two tunnels connecting New York City and New Jersey. All of them have pleaded innocent.
The first arrests occurred during a June 24 raid when authorities said they caught five of the suspects mixing bomb ingredients.
Prosecutors have said the government infiltrated the alleged terror ring as long ago as November 1991 but didn’t get information about the trade center before the attack.
Prior to the release of the new indictment, security was increased outside the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan. More than 160 police officers were assembled and trucks carrying barricades were parked in front.
Ron Kuby, a lawyer in William Kunstler’s office, which is handling the defense for two suspects in the alleged terror plot and represented Nosair at his trial, said he was disappointed.
″This is the closest I’ve ever seen to using the criminal justice system to indict a religious group for religious teaching. That kind of action poses a much greater threat to democracy than the people who throw the bombs,″ he said.
Barbara Nelson, a lawyer for Abdel-Rahman, said she was surprised.
″I don’t think there’s any basis to indict him,″ she said.
An Egyptian judge also has issued an arrest warrant for Abdel-Rahman for allegedly participating in an anti-government riot in 1989.