"Egypt's President-elect Mohammed Morsi made a nod to his base in a speech on Friday when he pledged to seek the release of Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman from U.S. custody.
Sheik Abdel-Rahman, who is better known as the "blind sheik" is serving a life sentence at a federal penitentiary in North Carolina for his role in planning the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City.
His detention has become a cause célèbre among hard-line Salafi Islamists whom Mr. Morsi counted on in his runoff against ex-regime loyalist Ahmed Shafiq.
Dozens of bearded Abdel-Rahman supporters, many in religious vestments, have slept outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo in a sit-in that has lasted the better part of a year. A full city block of downtown Cairo is festooned with banners bearing the blind sheik's image—bearded, capped with a red tarboosh and 1960s-era wayfarer sunglasses.
When Egyptian authorities charged seven U.S. citizens, including the son of a cabinet secretary, with violating laws on foreign funding for nongovernmental organizations in the spring, Sheik Abdel-Rahman's supporters lined up outside the courthouse calling for a prisoner swap.
For die-hard devotees, Mr. Morsi has taken up a cause that proves his revolutionary credentials: ousted President Hosni Mubarak did nothing to seek the sheik's release.
"It's wonderful. He did very good mentioning Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman," said Hesham el Ashry, a sheik supporter and a preacher. 'If America wants to be a real friend of the new Egyptian regime, they have to respond to the request of Morsi and release Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman...."