Skip to main content

Egyptian lawmaker met U.S. officials despite affiliation with terrorist group

By Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd, CNN
updated 2:14 AM EDT, Sat June 23, 2012
  • The State Department is reviewing its approval of Hani Nour el-Din's visa
  • He visited Washington this week as part of a delegation of Egyptian lawmakers
  • El-Din is a member of the group Gamaa Islamiya, a designated terrorist organization

(CNN) -- The State Department is reviewing its approval of a visa for a visiting Egyptian lawmaker after questions surfaced about whether he was invited to meet with administration officials despite belonging to a group accused of ties to terrorism.

Hani Nour el-Din visited Washington this week as part of a delegation of Egyptian members of parliament. But el-Din is a member of the group Gamaa Islamiya, which was blamed for a spate of violence in the 1990s, and which the State Department has designated a terrorist organization.

Under American law, a member of any group on the list would expect to be denied a visa.

"For somebody who represents a terrorist organization to be given a visa to come here and to meet with officials -- I think that's dubious diplomacy at best," said Clifford May, with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. "This is a terrorist organization, without any ambiguity about it whatsoever."

It was not clear whether U.S. officials were aware of el-Din's associations when he was allowed to visit.

Efforts by CNN to reach el-Din Friday were not successful. But in an interview with The Daily Beast, which first reported the story, el-Din confirmed that he is a member of Gamaa Islamiya, but nevertheless got a visa and attended a meeting with White House Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough.

A spokesman for the National Security Council declined to comment. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland confirmed that the Egyptian delegation met with two top officials there -- Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, and Under Secretary Robert Hormats.

She said the State Department meetings covered such topics as Egypt's transition to civilian rule, and the protection of human rights.

 "We are reviewing the case of the visa issuance," Nuland said. "Anyone who is issued a visa goes through a full set of screenings. Those screenings do depend, however, on the integrity of the information that's available to us at the time that we do screen, and this particular case is one that we are now looking into."

According to Egyptian researcher Samuel Tadros of the Hudson Institute in Washington, researching el-Din's affiliation would be as simple as an Arabic-language Google search.

"Once you enter on his Facebook page, you can very easily see Mr. Nour el-Din himself, and a short bio about him, where he very clearly says he is a member of Gamaa Islamiya, and that he was arrested in Egypt, and spent 11 years of his life in prison," Tadros said.

El-Din told The Daily Beast that he is no terrorist, has never been involved in violence, and that his incarceration was politically motivated.

But according to Tarek Al Zumor, a party spokesman and founding member of Gamaa Islamiya, el-Din pressed American officials for a transfer into Egyptian custody of Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, the blind Egyptian cleric serving a life sentence in the United States for a conspiracy conviction in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The request mirrors the demands of Gamaa Islamiya members in Cairo who have protested in Tahrir Square, seeking the sheikh's release.

El-Din's request, Zumor said, was denied.

CNN's Jamie Crawford and journalist Mohamed Fadel Fahmy contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 7:27 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.