US embassy cable - 01CAIRO7997

EGYPT: NEW TERRORIST GROUP, AL-WA'AD (THE PROMISE) FACES MILITARY TRIBUNAL

Identifier: 01CAIRO7997
Wikileaks: View 01CAIRO7997 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Cairo
Created: 2001-12-10 16:42:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: KISL PTER PGOV PHUM EG
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
O 101642Z DEC 01
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6270
INFO ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 CAIRO 007997 
 
FOR S/CT, NEA/ENA, NEA/P; NSC FOR RIEDEL 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/09/2006 
TAGS: KISL, PTER, PGOV, PHUM, EG 
SUBJECT: EGYPT: NEW TERRORIST GROUP, AL-WA'AD (THE PROMISE) 
FACES MILITARY TRIBUNAL 
 
CLASSIFIED BY ECONOMIC/POLITICAL MINISTER-COUNSELOR GENE A. 
CRETZ FOR REASONS 1.5 (B) AND (D). 
 
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SUMMARY 
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1.  (C)  IN THE FIRST TWO WEEKS OF TRIAL BEFORE THE MILITARY 
TRIBUNAL, THE PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN ORGANIZATION OF 94 EGYPTIANS 
AND FOREIGNERS, WHICH HAS BECOME KNOWN AS "AL-WA'AD" (THE 
PROMISE), IS ALLEGED TO BE A SOPHISTICATED NETWORK OF 
TERRORIST CELLS.  INDICTMENTS WERE ISSUED AGAINST 94 
DEFENDANTS, INCLUDING 7 FUGITIVES, ACCUSED OF FORMING A 
CLANDESTINE ILLEGAL ORGANIZATION WITH THE PURPOSE OF IMPEDING 
THE CONSTITUTION AND EGYPTIAN LAW, INFRINGING ON PERSONAL 
FREEDOM AND PUBLIC RIGHTS AND DAMAGING NATIONAL UNITY AND 
SOCIAL PEACE.  A NUMBER OF MEMBERS WERE ALLEGEDLY PLANNING TO 
COMMIT TERRORIST ACTS, INCLUDING ASSASSINATION OF PUBLIC AND 
GOVERNMENT FIGURES.  THEY COLLECTED FUNDS, THE GOVERNMENT 
CLAIMS, UPWARDS OF $1,000,000 IN THE PAST TWO YEARS.  WHILE 
THE GROUP CLAIMS IT WAS NOT PLANNING INTERNAL OPERATIONS IN 
EGYPT, IT ADMITTED SUPPORTING PALESTINIAN AND CHECHEN 
FIGHTERS.  AL-WA'AD IS SAID TO BE HEADED BY TWO RELIGIOUS 
FIGURES AND A COMPUTER ENGINEER.  ACCORDING TO THE 
PROSECUTION, ITS GOAL WAS TO UNDERMINE THE STATE AND TO 
ASSASSINATE POLITICAL, RELIGIOUS AND SECULAR FIGURES, 
INCLUDING PRESIDENT MUBARAK AND THE SHEIKH OF AL-AZHAR.  IN 
REALITY, LITTLE HAS COME TO LIGHT ABOUT THE TRUE ASPIRATIONS 
OF THE GROUP, WHICH ADMITTEDLY COLLECTED LARGE SUMS OF MONEY, 
WHICH IT CLAIMS WAS BEING SENT TO CHECHEN REBELS AND 
PALESTINIANS (HAMMAS).  THE TRIAL CONTINUES AT A RAPID PACE 
AS WE APPROACH THE LONG EID AL-FITR HOLIDAY BUT IS NOT LIKELY 
TO CONCLUDE FOR ANOTHER FEW WEEKS.  END SUMMARY 
 
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REINVIGORATING THE MILITARY COURTS SYSTEM 
----------------------------------------- 
 
2.  (C)  FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 2 YEARS, CIVILIAN DEFENDANTS 
WERE REFERRED TO EGYPT'S MILITARY COURTS SYSTEM FOR TRIAL. 
THE TRIAL OF THE FIRST OF THREE CIVILIAN GROUPS IN THE 
MILITARY TRIBUNAL AT HUCKSTEP, OUTSIDE CAIRO, BEGAN ON 
NOVEMBER 18.  SOME OF THE DEFENDANTS STAND ACCUSED OF 
TERRORIST-RELATED CRIMES.  INDICTMENTS WERE ISSUED AGAINST 94 
DEFENDANTS, INCLUDING 7 FUGITIVES, ACCUSED OF FORMING A 
CLANDESTINE ILLEGAL ORGANIZATION WITH THE PURPOSE OF IMPEDING 
THE CONSTITUTION AND EGYPTIAN LAW, INFRINGING ON PERSONAL 
FREEDOM AND PUBLIC RIGHTS AND DAMAGING NATIONAL UNITY AND 
SOCIAL PEACE.  A NUMBER OF MEMBERS WERE ALLEGEDLY PLANNING TO 
COMMIT TERRORIST ACTS, INCLUDING ASSASSINATION OF PUBLIC AND 
GOVERNMENT FIGURES, MUSLIMS AND CHRISTIANS, EGYPTIANS AND 
AMERICANS.  THEY COLLECTED FUNDS, THE GOVERNMENT CLAIMS, 
UPWARDS OF $1,000,000 IN THE PAST TWO YEARS, TO SUPPORT THE 
PALESTINIAN INTIFADA AND CHECHEN REBELS.  WHILE AL-WA'AD 
CLAIMS IT WAS NOT PLANNING INTERNAL OPERATIONS IN EGYPT, IT 
ADMITTED SUPPORTING PALESTINIAN AND CHECHEN FIGHTERS. 
 
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LEADERS AND MEMBERS OF AL-WA'AD 
------------------------------- 
 
3.  (C) FORMED IN 1996, AL-WA'AD'S OPERATIONS WERE 
CLANDESTINE, ACCORDING TO THE PROSECUTION.  THE 
INVESTIGATION, ONGOING SINCE MAY 2001, REVEALED A NETWORK 
HEADED BY TWO POPULAR PRAYER LEADERS, SHEIKH FAWZY AL-SAYEED, 
57, FROM AL-TAWHEED MOSQUE IN DOWNTOWN CAIRO AND NASHAT 
IBRAHIM, 46, THE ORATOR OF THE KABUL MOSQUE IN THE SUBURB OF 
NASR CITY.  (NOTE: NASHAT WAS ARRESTED IN 1981, IN CONNECTION 
WITH THE SADAT ASSASSINATION, SPENT A YEAR IN PRISON, AFTER 
WHICH HE TRAVELED TO SAUDI ARABIA BEFORE RETURNING TO FOUND 
AL- WA'AD.)  WHILE NASHAT CLAIMED THAT AL-WA'AD WAS OPPOSED 
TO TERRORISM AND VIOLENCE, THE PROSECUTION ALLEGED THEY WERE 
PLANNING INTERNAL SUBVERSION AND VIOLENCE.  IN ADDITION TO 
THE FORMAL CHARGES, AL-SAYEED HAS BEEN ACCUSED OF ISSUING A 
FATWA (RELIGIOUS OPINION) CLAIMING THE EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT IS 
AN INFIDEL WHO DOES NOT IMPLEMENT SHARIA (ISLAMIC LAW) 
RULINGS. 
 
4.  (C) AL-WA'AD MEMBERS INCLUDED EGYPTIANS AND FOREIGNERS, 
AMONG THEM DUAL NATIONALS FROM THE U.S. (MUHAMMAD HISHAM SAYF 
AL-DIN YOUSSEF) , HOLLAND (HISHAM MAHMOUD DIYAB), AUSTRIA 
(MUHAMMAD RABBAH SALIM) AND GERMANY (MUHAMMAD HASAN 
AL-WARDANI).  A PRINCIPAL DEFENDANT AND ALLEGED LEADER OF THE 
AL-WA'AD ORGANIZATION, MAGDI IDRIS, 33 YEARS OLD, IS A 
COMPUTER ENGINEER WHO OWNS A SPORTS GYM, ALLEGEDLY A SITE FOR 
TRAINING MILITANTS.  HE REPORTEDLY RECRUITED MEMBERS ABROAD 
TO CONDUCT MILITARY AND EXPLOSIVES TRAINING IN EGYPT.  AN 
AL-WA'AD MEMBER, A DAGESTANI BOMB EXPERT, WAS FOUND IN 
POSSESSION OF NUMEROUS EXPLOSIVE DEVICES.  TWELVE EGYPTIAN 
SUSPECTS WERE CHARGED WITH RECEIVING MILITARY TRAINING 
OUTSIDE EGYPT, WITHOUT GOVERNMENT PERMISSION.  TWO OR THREE 
SEVERAL DEFENDANTS, ACCORDING TO STATE SECURITY PROSECUTION, 
WERE TRAINED IN AFGHANISTAN.  OTHER DEFENDANTS INCLUDED 
BUSINESSMEN, COMPUTER EXPERTS AND PILOTS.  THE GOVERNMENT 
CLAIMS THAT THE GROUP ADVOCATED A VIOLENT IDEOLOGY, SIMILAR 
TO EGYPTIAN ISLAMIC JIHAD, INTENDING TO ATTACK PRESIDENT 
MUBARAK, GOVERNMENT AND AMERICAN OFFICIALS, POPULAR SECULAR 
FIGURES AND THE MODERATE SHEIKH OF AL-AZHAR.  NASSERITE 
WEEKLY AL-ARABY REPORTED (11/1/01) THAT ACCORDING TO SHEIKH 
FAWZY AL-SAYEED, THE NAMES OF SIX INITIAL DEFENDANTS, SONS OF 
FORMER AND PRESENT SENIOR GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS, WERE DROPPED 
FROM THE FORMAL INDICTMENT. 
 
---------------------------------- 
OPENING SESSION: THE PLOT REVEALED 
---------------------------------- 
 
5.  (C)  AT THE OPENING SESSION (11/18), THE COURT HEARD 
REQUESTS FROM DEFENSE ATTORNEYS, WHO FAILED TO FORM A DEFENSE 
PANEL, LED BY ONE LAWYER.  MANY ATTORNEYS FOR THE DEFENSE 
STRESSED THAT THEY WANTED TO PROCEED INDEPENDENTLY TO DEFEND 
ONLY THEIR RESPECTIVE CLIENTS.  AT THE NEXT HEARING ON 
NOVEMBER 21, THE GOVERNMENT INTRODUCED WEAPONS, INCLUDING A 
BASEBALL BAT AND AIR RIFLE, WHICH WERE RULED INADMISSIBLE BY 
THE JUDGES.  THE PROSECUTION SAID THAT MAJOR OPERATIONS WERE 
TO INCLUDE ATTACKING MOTORCADES OF SENIOR OFFICIALS; ATTACKS 
AGAINST THE SHEIKH OF AL-AZHAR, THE RADIO AND TV BUILDING, AN 
UNDISCLOSED LOCATION HOUSING AMERICAN PILOTS AND ATTACKS 
AGAINST BOTH MUSLIM AND CHRISTIAN PERSONALITIES.  THE 
PROSECUTOR CHARGED THAT AL-WA'AD RECENTLY COLLECTED $600,000, 
WHICH WAS SENT TO A JORDANIAN RESIDENT IN THE UAE (MOHAMED 
ALI, AKA ABU-HAMZAH), WHO RUNS THE AL-HARAMAYN CHARITY 
FOUNDATION IN SAUDI ARABIA.  THROUGH THE UAE CONNECTIONS, 
THEY FUNNELED MONEY TO THE CHECHEN RESISTANCE, ACCORDING TO 
THE PROSECUTION.  AL-WA'AD SOUGHT TO INDOCTRINATE YOUNG 
EGYPTIANS, TO RECRUIT THEM TO FIGHT IN CHECHENYA AND THE 
BALKANS.  ONCE THEY DEVELOPED EXPERTISE, THE GOVERNMENT 
CLAIMS, THEY WOULD RETURN TO EGYPT TO CARRY OUT TERRORIST 
OPERATIONS.  AL-AHRAM AL-ARABY NEWSPAPER CLAIMED THE GROUP 
HAD CLOSE RELATIONS WITH HAMMAS AND ON 12/2 REPORTED A 
MEETING BETWEEN A HAMMAS OFFICIAL AND DEFENDANT NASHAT AT 
WHICH HE RECEIVED A LIST OF REQUESTED MATERIEL, INCLUDING 
MACHINE GUNS AND ANTI-TANK ARTILLERY. 
 
----------------- 
THE PLOT THICKENS 
----------------- 
 
6.  (C) AS THE GOVERNMENT BUILT ITS CASE AGAINST AL-WA'AD 
MEMBERS, IT REVEALED THAT THE ORGANIZATION WAS DIVIDED INTO 
CLUSTER CELLS.  MEMBERS CAME FROM THE ELITES AND EDUCATED 
CLASSES. FUNDS WERE COLLECTED FROM WORSHIPPERS AT TWO LARGE 
MOSQUES AS WELL AS DONATIONS FROM BUSINESSMEN THEY RECRUITED. 
 NASHAT IBRAHIM REPORTEDLY PAID EXPENSES FOR MEMBERS TO 
RECEIVE TRAINING AT CHECHEN RESISTANCE CAMPS, IN KASHMIR AND 
AFGHANISTAN.  A DAGASTANI EXPLOSIVES EXPERT, REGISTERED IN 
THE MEDICAL FACULTY AT AL-AZHAR TRAINED MEMBERS IN CAIRO AND 
ALEXANDRIA TO PLANT CAR BOMBS AND OTHER DEVICES.  TWO 
DEFENDANTS ALLEGEDLY CONFESSED TO BELONGING TO THE GAMA'AT 
ISLAMIYYA SINCE THE MID-1990'S.  THREE OF THE DEFENDANTS 
ALLEGEDLY RECEIVED CIVIL AVIATION TRAINING IN THE U.S.: 
MUHAMMAD HISHAM SAYF AL-DIN, HUSAM ZAKARIYA ABDUL SALAM, AND 
MUHAMMAD MAHMUD NUR-AL-DIN. 
 
7.  (C) IN ITS THIRD SESSION ON DECEMBER 3, AT WHICH THE 
MILITARY TRIBUNAL HEARD TESTIMONY FROM THE INVESTIGATING 
OFFICER, WHO SAID THE GROUP HAD BEEN STUDYING THE MOVEMENT OF 
THE PRESIDENT'S MOTORCADE, PREPARING TO BLOW IT UP.  DEFENSE 
ATTORNEYS REQUESTED THE PRESENCE OF THE MUFTI OF THE 
REPUBLIC, PRESIDENT OF AL-AZHAR UNIVERSITY, AND DEAN OF THE 
RELIGION FACULTY AS WITNESSES FOR THE DEFENSE.  DEFENSE 
ATTORNEYS CLAIMED THE COPY OF THE CASE WAS ILLEGIBLE AND 
REQUESTED THE HEARING BE HALTED UNTIL A CLEAR COPY COULD BE 
OBTAINED.  THE PRESIDENT OF THE COURT DECIDED TO GIVE LAWYERS 
ACCESS TO THE ORIGINAL OF THE CASE DOCUMENTS WHILE CONTINUING 
THE CASE.  THE ATTORNEY FOR EGYPTIAN-AMERICAN MUHAMMAD HISHAM 
SAYF AL-DIN REQUESTED A MEDICAL EXAMINATION FOR EVIDENCE OF 
TORTURE.  OTHERS ASKED TO BE HOSPITALIZED FOR DETERIORATING 
HEALTH CONDITIONS.  THE COURT ACCEPTED THE DEFENSE APPEALS 
AND AGREED TO REQUEST AN AL-AZHAR COMMITTEE EXAMINE BOOKS 
FOUND IN THE POSSESSION OF THE ACCUSED TO JUDGE THEIR 
CONFORMITY WITH ISLAMIC LEGISLATION. 
 
8.  (C) CROSS EXAMINATION OF PROSECUTION WITNESSES BY DEFENSE 
ATTORNEYS TOOK UP THE NEXT TWO (DECEMBER 4 AND 6) SESSIONS. 
DURING THESE SESSIONS A LINK BETWEEN JORDANIAN ABU HAMZA AND 
DEFENDANT MAGDI IDRIS BECAME CLEAR.  THE FORMER SERVED AS THE 
LINK BETWEEN AL-WA'AD CELLS AND TRAINING CAMPS ABROAD, MAKING 
ARRANGEMENTS FOR THEIR MOVEMENTS.  DEFENSE ATTORNEYS CHARGED 
THAT THEIR DEFENDANTS WERE TORTURED AND THEIR CONFESSIONS, 
MADE UNDER DURESS, WERE INVALID.  ACCORDING TO GOVERNMENT 
DAILY, AL-AHRAM (12/6) THE PROSECUTION INTRODUCED ONLY 21 
PIECES OF EVIDENCE, SPECIFICALLY RELIGIOUS BOOKS AND DRAWINGS 
FOR TARGET PRACTICE, WHILE THE INDICTMENT INDICATES 150 
PIECES OF EVIDENCE, INCLUDING WEAPONS. 
 
---------------------- 
SKEPTICS VIEW THE CASE 
---------------------- 
 
9.  (C) THE REFERRAL OF THIS CASE TO A MILITARY TRIBUNAL HAS 
RAISED SUSPICIONS AND SOME CONCERNS IN EGYPT.  THE ABSENCE OF 
CONCRETE EVIDENCE AND CREDIBLE WEAPONS FURTHER WEAKENS THE 
GOVERNMENT'S CASE AND HEIGHTENS SUSPICIONS AS TO WHETHER THIS 
IS A SHOW TRIAL.  SOME BELIEVE THAT INTRODUCING THE CASE IN 
THE MILITARY TRIBUNAL WAS A POST-9/11 DEMONSTRATION OF 
EGYPT'S CONCRETE RESOLVE TO DEAL WITH TERRORISM.  DEFENSE 
ATTORNEY HAFEZ ABU SAADA CLAIMED THAT THE CASE WOULD HAVE 
ENDED IN ACQUITTAL IN AN ORDINARY COURT OF LAW.  THIS, HE 
SAID, IS LESS LIKELY TO HAPPEN IN A MILITARY PROCEEDING, 
WHERE THE JUDGES ARE MORE SUSCEPTIBLE TO GOVERNMENT PRESSURE. 
 
10. (C) PROMINENT ARAB JOURNALIST MOHAMED SALAH BELIEVES THAT 
THE MEMBERS OF THIS GROUP DID INDEED VIOLATE THE LAW IN 
SOLICITING AND ACCEPTING DONATIONS WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM 
THE GOE, IN VIOLATION OF THE 1992 MILITARY ORDER TO THAT 
EFFECT.  WHAT PROVIDED THIS GROUP A RADICAL ISLAMIC TINT WAS 
THE FACT THAT SOME OF THOSE INVOLVED HAD BEEN MEMBERS OF 
RADICAL ISLAMIST GROUPS IN THE PAST. 
 
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COMMENT 
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11.  (C) WHILE WE AGREE THAT THE EVIDENCE IS SCANT AND THE 
MAKINGS OF A PUTSCH UNLIKELY SO FAR, THE GOVERNMENT IN OUR 
VIEW, WAS ALSO CONCERNED ABOUT THE GROUP'S POTENTIAL.  THEY 
WERE ALREADY BREAKING THE LAW BY COLLECTING AND SENDING LARGE 
AMOUNTS OF CASH AND PROCURING WEAPONS TO BE SENT TO CHECHNYA 
AND PALESTINIAN HAMMAS BOTH OF WHICH ARE EMOTIONAL AS WELL AS 
POLITICAL CONCERNS FOR MANY ARAB MUSLIMS.  THE ABSENCE OF 
EVIDENCE IN THIS CASE MAY DEMONSTRATE THE DIFFICULTY OF 
TRACING FUNDS, PARTICULARLY CASH CONTRIBUTIONS, IN THE 
INTERNATIONAL ARENA.  WHILE WE SEE NO CONNECTION BETWEEN THIS 
GROUP AND AL-QAEDA, WE CANNOT RULE OUT THAT IT WAS AN 
OFFSHOOT OF ANOTHER INTERNATIONAL GROUP.  CERTAINLY, LOCAL 
TERRORIST ELEMENTS, OR CELLS, RECEIVING MILITARY AND 
EXPLOSIVES TRAINING ABROAD, COULD USE THAT EXPERTISE 
INTERNALLY, AS THE GOVERNMENT CLAIMS.  PRESIDENT MUBARAK'S 
EFFORTS OVER THE PAST YEAR TO TURN THE FOCUS BACK TO PEACE AT 
THE SAME TIME THE ISRAELIS ARE PERCEIVED AS BEING AT WAR WITH 
THE PALESTINIANS, HAVE NOT MADE HIM MORE POPULAR.  THAT IS 
PARTICULARLY TRUE AMONG THOSE WHO FEEL A NEED TO HELP DEFEND 
MUSLIMS AGAINST OCCUPATION FORCES, WHICH THEY VIEW AS 
"LEGITIMATE JIHAD". 
 
 
WELCH 

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