Former Jama’a al-Islamiya leader wants pardon, not retrial

Former Jama’a al-Islamiya leader Ahmed Refa’i Taha told the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper Friday that he wanted to be pardoned, rather than released pending a ruling in a case in which he is accused of terrorist activities outside and inside Egypt.

The Beni Suef Criminal Court decided to release Wednesday four Jamaa al-Islamiya leaders pending a ruling in the case of the “Returnees from Albania.”

A military court had formerly sentenced the defendants to death.

The case was referred to a civilian court after Parliament amended the military judiciary law and canceled the president's power to refer civilians to military courts.

The Returnees from Albania are accused of being jihadists who flocked to the Balkans after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 under the pretext of supporting the resistance. Some returned to Egypt while others moved in the early 1990's to allegedly fight with the Muslim residents of Balkan countries.

The Egyptian authorities charged the defendants with attempting to overthrow a regime, killing civilians, and targeting tourism and Christians.

Along with Taha, Jama’a al-Islamiya Shura Council member Osman al-Samman, group leader Mostafa Hamza, and brother of former President Mohamed al-Sadat's assassin Showky al-Islambouli were released. The Beni Suef Criminal Court adjourned the case until Wednesday, 5 November to give the defendants’ lawyers time to study the case.

Taha expressed dissatisfaction with his release pending retrial.

“I wanted to get out in the first days of the revolution, and I wanted to go out with a pardon decision that includes all political prisoners; but unfortunately I was released pending a political case,” Taha said in his first statement after his release.

“[This case] is a huge insult to the revolution and revolutionaries…We are considered the first to fight the former regime, which nobody revolted against like us,” he added.

He expressed regret for how he and his colleagues were released from prison, saying, “We would like people to have shown some appreciation for those who opposed Mubarak and his regime.”

The transitional government led by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces issued a pardon for some leaders of Islamic groups following the 25 January revolution, and President Mohamed Morsy pardoned 26 Jama’a al-Islamiya and Islamic Jihad members in July.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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