Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman (عمر عبد الرحمن) (born May 3, 1938) is a blind Egyptian Muslim leader who is currently serving a life sentence at the Butner Medical Center which is part of the Butner Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, North Carolina, United States. His inmate registration number is 34892-054. Formerly a resident of New York City, Abdel-Rahman and nine others were convicted of "seditious conspiracy" , which requires only that a crime be planned, not that it necessarily be attempted. His prosecution grew out of investigations of the World Trade Center 1993 bombings.
Abdel-Rahman is the leader of Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya (also known as "The Islamic Group"), a militant Islamist movement in Egypt that is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and Egyptian governments. The group is responsible for many acts of violence, including the November 1997 Luxor massacre, in which 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians were killed.
Abdel-Rahman has declared that the United States "certainly will kill me" in jail.
He traveled widely in the United States and Canada. Despite the U.S. support for the mujahideen in Afghanistan, Abdel-Rahman was deeply anti-American and spoke out against it, safe in the knowledge that he was speaking Arabic and unmonitored by any law enforcement agency. He issued a fatwa in America that declared lawful the robbing of banks and killing of Jews in America. His sermons condemned Americans as the "descendants of apes and pigs who have been feeding from the dining tables of the Zionists, Communists, and colonialists". He called on Muslims to assail the West, "cut the transportation of their countries, tear it apart, destroy their economy, burn their companies, eliminate their interests, sink their ships, shoot down their planes, kill them on the sea, air, or land".
Preaching at three mosques in the New York City area, Abdel-Rahman was soon surrounded by a core group of devoted followers that included persons who became responsible for the World Trade Center 1993 bombings. One of Rahman's followers, El Sayyid Nosair, was linked to the assassination of Israeli nationalist Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the militant Jewish Defense League. He was subsequently acquitted of murder but convicted on gun possession charges.
Nosair later stood trial as a co-conspirator of Rahman. Both men received life sentences for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, conspiracy to use explosives against New York landmarks, and plotting to assassinate U.S. politicians. Nosair received life plus 15 years of imprisonment. Nosair's relatives obtained funds to pay for Nosair's defense from Osama bin Laden.
After the first World Trade Center bombing in February 1993, the FBI began to investigate Rahman and his followers more closely. With the assistance of an Egyptian informant wearing a listening device, the FBI managed to record Rahman issuing a fatwa encouraging acts of violence against US civilian targets, particularly in the New York and New Jersey metropolitan area. The most startling plan, the government charged, was to set off five bombs in 10 minutes, blowing up the United Nations, the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, the George Washington Bridge and a federal building housing the FBI. (See New York City landmark bomb plot.) Government prosecutors showed videotapes of defendants mixing bomb ingredients in a garage before their arrest in 1993. Rahman was arrested on June 24, 1993, along with nine of his followers. On October 1, 1995, he was convicted of seditious conspiracy, and in 1996 was sentenced to life in prison.
In 2005, members of Rahman’s legal team, including attorney Lynne Stewart, were convicted of facilitating communication between the imprisoned Sheikh and members of the terrorist organization Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya in Egypt.