Former leader of prominent Islamist group arrested upon returning from exile

Authorities on Wednesday arrested Osama Roshdy, a former leader of Egypt's Jama’a al-Islamiya, when he returned to Egypt from London after 23 years in exile.

Airport authorities referred Roshdy to national security to investigate whether he is wanted by judicial authorities.

Roshdy's father and relatives were unable to see him.

Jama’a al-Islamiya is one of Egypt's largest extremist organizations. It orchestrated armed attacks against former President Hosni Mubarak's regime during the 1990s, but then formally renounced violence and rhetoric on heresy.

"I had to leave the country in 1989 due to persecution by the former regime against Islamists, which developed in campaigns of detentions and assassinations," Roshdy said, noting that he did not flee, but rather obtained a court ruling allowing him to travel. He added that he had won a case to remove his name from a list of security threats.

Roshdy said he moved to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the Netherlands and the UK before finally returning home to Egypt.

He said he would not rejoin the group, which he left in 1999 and declared his intention to meet several presidential hopefuls, including Mohamed ElBaradei, Mohamed Selim al-Awa, Ayman Nour, and Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh, as well as leaders of Islamist groups.

Roshdy denied intentions of joining Jama’a al-Islamiya's new party, which the group hopes to announce soon.

Roshdy said that Mubarak’s regime never stopped persecuting him and his family, causing them to leave the Netherlands, though his wife and sons already possessed Dutch citizenship. He attributed the former regime's actions to his political activities in Europe, namely those of his Save Egypt Front, an activist group that ran its own newspaper and radio station.

Roshdy said he dissolved the group after Mubarak resigned, saying he hopes that new investigations are opened into past political issues. He also said he maintained communication with a number of diverse political groups and personalities before and after the 25 January revolution, urging reconciliation among all sectors of Egyptian society.

Translated from the Arabic Edition

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