US court rules sheikh must go: Judge rules Egyptian cleric may endanger security as hijack by one of his followers ends

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The Independent Online
A JUDGE refused yesterday to grant political asylum in the United States to Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, saying the cleric's deportation order by the US government stands. The sheikh, who has ties to many of those charged in last February's bombing of the World Trade Center in New York and in another alleged bomb plot, went to court to appeal against his expulsion.

The Egyptian cleric, who has called for the overthrow of the Egyptian government from his self-imposed exile in Jersey City, New Jersey, was ordered to be deported in July for lying in his immigration papers.

District Judge Charles Brieant yesterday upheld the deportation order against the sheikh and also said 'that there are reasonable grounds for regarding him as a danger to the security of the United States'. But the judge ruled that the sheikh, who is in custody, could not be deported for at least 10 days. His lawyers are expected to appeal.

The sheikh has not been charged with any crime over the Trade Center bombing or an alleged plot to blow up UN headquarters in New York.

The hijacker of a KLM flight from Tunis to Amsterdam who had demanded the sheikh's release is due to appear in court in Bonn today, after the hijack was successfully ended by German police yesterday.

Members of the GSG-9 anti- terror unit stormed the plane on the tarmac at Dusseldorf airport just after 2am yesterday, at the moment when the hijacker had gone to the lavatory. The pilot, who was later praised by airport authorities, police and passengers alike, had earlier suggested a plan that proved to be successful. He and the steward escaped out of the cabin window the moment they were alone, while the GSG-9 stormed the plane.

The hijacker, reported to be a 40-year-old Egyptian, Khalid Abdel Mounien Gharib, was described as an 'untypical' hijacker; he released all 130 passengers upon landing, and later freed the female co-pilot.

He said that he had explosives and was ready to blow up the plane if his demands were not met by 9am yesterday. But packages in his pockets, which the authorities had assumed contained explosives, turned out to be cigarette packets.