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Last Updated: Monday, 29 September, 2003, 00:37 GMT 01:37 UK
Sadat killing mastermind freed
Anwar Sadat
Sadat originally sought the backing of Islamists
Egypt has released a militant leader who ordered the assassination of former President Anwar Sadat in 1981.

Karam Zohdy, 51, was sentenced to life in prison for approving the assassination, as one of the leaders of the Islamic group al-Gamaa al-Islamiya.

According to Egyptian law, a life sentence normally means 25 years. The prison year, however, is calculated as nine months, meaning that Zohdy was overdue for release.

Al-Gamaa al-Islamiya also admitted responsibility for the killing of 58 tourists in the resort of Luxor in 1997.

Rethink

Another reason for Zohdy's release was a heart condition and diabetes, the official Mena news agency said.

While in prison, he is reported to have renounced violence.

In an interview with the London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq al-Awsat in July, he said that Anwar Sadat "died a martyr during civil strife".

He said that if he could live the time of the assassination again, he would "struggle to prevent it".

While in prison, Zohdy and other al-Gamaa al-Islamiya leaders wrote a number of books with titles including "Shedding light on the mistakes of holy war".

A week ago, 12 group leaders appeared in a popular news magazine, expressing remorse for their actions.

Zohdy has now returned to his home town of Minya, 230km (140 miles) south of Cairo, police sources said.

Israel treaty

Anwar Sadat was shot on 6 October 1981 by al-Gamaa al-Islamiya member Khaled al-Islambuli, during a military parade.

Al-Islambuli was sentenced to death and executed two years later.

Islamic radicals had condemned Sadat for being the first leader in the Arab world to sign a peace treaty with Israel, in 1979.

He had initially sought the backing of Islamists in a political struggle against left-wingers, but growing radicalism turned them against the president.




SEE ALSO:
Former militant arrested in Egypt
12 Jun 02  |  Middle East
Film on Sadat gets mixed reactions
20 Jul 01  |  Middle East
What happened at Luxor?
19 Nov 97  |  In Depth
Timeline: Egypt
30 Jul 03  |  Country profiles



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