But for you, what was your reaction when you heard that he had been
... All people were happy when Sadat was assassinated. He was a dictator and a
violator of human rights. He was not working for the interest of the Egyptian
people. Unfortunately, we were ruled later on by someone who was worse than
him, and it is Hosni Mubarak.
Do you know a General Fouad Allam?
Fouad Allam was the head of security in Egypt. I called him in Islamic terms as
"butcher." He participated in a lot of massacres during the 1960s and 1970s,
especially with the Muslim Brotherhood.
He says he knows you, or knows of you.
Not true, because I never met him in my life.
But he says he knows of you. And he says that you are one of the problem
[I] do not know him. He's a liar. [I] once participated in a conversation over
a telephone, and [I] told him his hands were stained in the blood of their
[You] told the general?
[I] spoke to him through the [Al Jazeera] channel, and [I] told him that his
hands were stained with the blood of the Egyptian people. [I] told him he was a
butcher, not a general.
And he says that you must be psychopathic.
He still wants to live on the past. He was the head of security, and he
participated in the imprisonment and torture of Egyptian people. He wants to
continue his work in the media now. ...
Why do they want you back in Egypt?
The Egyptian regime is a dictatorial regime. It violates the simplest of human
rights in Egypt. The Egyptian regime put me on trial in 1993, and I was
sentenced to death in 1994.
I was not in Egypt at the time. That was a military court. I am a civilian, and
I was put on a military court. And all human rights organizations have
condemned this court, because it's not fair. Human rights organizations are
sure and they have evidence [that] these courts did not take into consideration the
real law, and all the evidence was extracted through torture.
Set aside the case of the Egyptian government, that they want you for murder.
Do you believe that it'd be justified to attack the government, to assassinate
its leadership, because they are a dictatorship and unjust?
I oppose all forms of assassinations. I have always said that. I now declare
and say it again, that I am anti-assassinations. I believe that change in Egypt
would come through two ways. One is through a coup by the Egyptian armed
forces. And secondly, through educating the Egyptian masses to do an uprising
against the Egyptian government.
But you do believe that it will take force to [change] what is going on in
As I said, change in Egypt has got to come in the previous two ways, either
through a military coup or through an uprising, because there is no other way.
The Egyptian government does not allow any form of protest.
You have no alternative?
Elections in Egypt are [rigged]. They are not true. They practice gagging.
People cannot say their opinions.
I'm going to mention some well-known names. Maybe you could explain your
opinion of these people, and what you think the American people should know
about them, to the extent that you know them. Sheik Abdel Rahman?
Sheik Abdel Rahman is a clergyman who is qualified from Al Azhar mosque. ... He
was a victim of a conspiracy in the United States and has been wrongly
imprisoned in the U.S.
In the United States, they say he was the mastermind of terrorist
This is not proof that he should be convicted. The federal judge himself said
to Sheik Rahman that he was accused of something that was not known. If that
accusation was proved, then a lot of damage will happen. So, even the judge
doesn't know and didn't know. How can I talk? How can I judge, pass sentence on
someone because of his intention to do something? Not on his actions, on his
It's a political conviction. He's a blind man. It is an insult to Muslims
that he's imprisoned. If he dies in prison, there will be a lot of problems for
the United States in the Muslim world.
People know that he is wrongly convicted in the U.S. and he's treated unfairly
and inhumanely. The U.S. Attorneys like Ramsey Clark and others have confirmed
this. His death in prison will cause a lot of problems, a lot of things that
may not be very pleasant.
From his followers?
He has many followers. And they could do a lot of damage to the interests of
the U.S. I do not think that a blind man will cause a lot of problems to the
U.S. if they release him, especially when we said that the conviction was a
political conviction, and there was no [justice] in it. ...
We understand that there is a Mr. al-Zawahiri, who is the Islamic Jihad
leader in Egypt. Who is he, and what are we to think of him? We are told he is
a terrorist and a partner of bin Laden's.
Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri is one of the people of Egypt. He was arrested in 1981
after the assassination of Sadat. He [has] an M.A. in medicine.
Have you met him? And what we read about him in the press -- is that
Dr. al-Zawahiri comes from a very well known family in Egypt. He is a doctor,
surgeon, and his father was a professor of the medical college in Egypt, and
his grandfather was the first secretary general of the Arab League.
And this is who is involved with the Islamic Jihad of Egypt?
He was a member prior to 1981, member of a group. He was not the leader. ...
But today, Dr. al-Zawahiri -- like you -- cannot go back to Egypt?
The main reason is because of the absence of democracy, the absence of freedom
in the Arab world. The U.S. should not support these regimes which have caused
the crashes. Instead of fighting terrorism or Islam, they should stop
supporting these regimes, because of the regimes which have caused the problem
in the first place.
For example, all those Egyptians who fought in Afghanistan were not able to go
back to Egypt after the end of the war. Their return means that they will stand
trial in military courts and they would be sentenced. That's why most of these
people could not go back to Egypt, because of the absence of justice. They had
to stay away.
Dr. al-Zawahiri is now a friend of Osama bin Laden, yes?
Dr. al-Zawahiri worked as a doctor in a hospital in Peshawar at the beginning.
... Like others after the end of the war, he could not return, so he stayed
abroad. He didn't have a passport, he did not have the opportunity to speak his
mind, and he did not have the freedom of expression.
But we now see him in pictures with Osama bin Laden.
This is not the problem. His presence with bin Laden is not the problem. There
is no evidence to sentence him or to incriminate him.
He's wanted by the U.S. government.
That's the U.S. problem. The problem now, in [my] opinion, is that the United
States has put itself as the judge, jury and executor. ...
You say that we, the United States, has accused Dr. al-Zawahiri
[There] was no convincing evidence. No clear evidence. The U.S. has not
finished its investigation. How can it [make] a charge? ...
Is the United States the friend of your enemies: Mubarak, the repressive
The U.S. helps these regimes forge and rig elections that helps them stay in
And so if you see your enemy attacked, like on Sept. 11, did you
regret that or did you think that this was justified?
... I only expressed my opinions in words, and I have said it before, but I
will not support any violent actions. I am against the killings of innocent
There's no other culture or place in the world today where the United States
or any country has had suicide bombers, people willing to die. It has only been
in the Middle East, and it has only been in this incident at the World Trade
Center and at the Pentagon.
... Until now, there is no evidence that those people are responsible for these
acts of Sept. 11 were Muslims. The United States rushed into saying after
half an hour -- President Bush said it was bin Laden. There must be thorough
investigation to know the reasons and the people behind these attacks.
I agree. I agree. I also agree, based on what you said so far that there are
reasons behind these attacks. And we must talk about the reasons.
The reasons are the policies of the United States. The U.S. has problems all
over the world, in Japan, Grenada and other places. And the reason is the
policies of the U.S.
But before we can talk about politics or economics, we have to talk about
who is involved and how people feel. For example, if it turns out that they
were Muslims who were responsible for Sept. 11, for the policy reasons that
you mentioned, was their action justified?
I disagree with this method, because I know the victims will be innocent people
and civilians. If it was proved that Muslims were involved in these acts, then
it is a crime which has been committed by those people and by the U.S.
What was your involvement with the [killing] of Massoud and the bombing in
My organization is a human rights organization for all people around the world.
And I only work in the media. ... I condemn what happened to Massoud. He was
one of the leaders who participated in the defeat and the ousting of the
Russians from Afghanistan.
It is not possible that Massoud has met with these generals because of a letter
from us. ... What has happened on our part, someone has contacted us and wanted
to make a TV program and sell it to us because we are independent. He told us
he contacted us from Afghanistan and he told us he was going to meet with
Afghan leaders among whom is Mohammed Omar.
Accordingly, we did not pay anything, and so we get the program that was talked
about. It was an outstanding offer to us to have such a program, so he asked
for a letter of reference. The program is called under the title, "Afghanistan:
Past, Present and Future."
[In the] Sept. 19 [London] Daily Mail, [it says], "An
asylum-seeker running an Islamic fundamentalist organization in Britain
provided vital help to Osama bin Laden's hit men. Egyptian dissident Yasser
al-Siri supplied the key document to assist assassins in the murder of the
Taliban's main opposition leader in Afghanistan."
It's not true, because this paper, firstly, it's a tabloid newspaper. It is a
gutter press. This paper tries to distort my reputation and organization I
The truth of the letter is that I could not have assisted in the murder and
killing of Ahmed Shah Massoud, whom I think was one of the best leaders of
Afghanistan. ... I strongly condemn this action and could not have participated
Do you support the Taliban? Do you think they are the true government of
Taliban, they have good and bad people.
My question is, do you support them? Do you think they are the valid
government of Afghanistan?
This is an Afghan issue, and it's not within my right, [nor] I will be making
the same mistake as the United States -- interfering in other peoples' internal
When you hear that someone like Osama bin Laden or Dr. al-Zawahiri wants to
kill Americans and Jews, do you support that?
I have said in the past to the press that I disagree with many of the actions
committed by these people which target civilians. Some of these innocent people
are not the enemy. They have nothing to do with American policy. They are not
involved in it. They are innocent people. They have committed no crime. Islam
clearly prohibits the killing of innocent people. ...
If I were to interview President Mubarak, what should I ask him?
You should ask him why he doesn't let people live in peace. Why doesn't he let
people have freedom? Why doesn't he allow the authority, power, to be
transferred in peaceful means?
His ambassador said to me, "They use the law forcefully and they succeeded.
Today, they negotiate. In the past, they had a bigger problem. They had to be
This is not true. They say this because they want to give the impression they
have succeeded. They are hiding the truth.
Their days are numbered?
All people of all walks of life in Egypt reject the Egyptian regime. It could
fall any time. It's very unique. ...
I want to make sure we understand. There are limits on use of force, of
violence, to achieve a better Egypt or a better Islamic world?
... No person, including myself ... should exceed the limits set by Islamic
law, Sharia. Nobody is above the law. Nobody has the right to kill innocent
people. That is clearly prohibited by the Koran.
And if it can be shown that the people who did Sept. 11 were Muslims,
they would, in a sense, be discrediting their own cause -- in your eyes, and
many other peoples' eyes.
Islam forbids the killing of innocent people. It is regrettable what happened
in the U.S.
There should be no hasty decisions. We must not be hasty. We should wait for
the truth to come out. We should not follow what some media institutions want
to do, which is to distort the truth.
saudi arabia +
intelligence failure +
reporting from the ny times +
tapes & transcripts +
pbs online +
photo copyright © afp/corbis
web site copyright 1995-2014
WGBH educational foundation