Mohammed al-Zawahiri denies humanitarian visit, arrest in Syria
The brother of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has rebuffed reports of his arrest in Syria, according to Egyptian media on Saturday.
Egyptian Islamist Mohammed al-Zawahiri told Egypt’s state-run newspaper Al-Ahram that media outlets who reported the news did not evaluate it “intellectually.”
"They do not know how to reply in a logical manner rather than the fabrication of charges," Zawahiri was quoted as saying.
He added that the claims were an attempt to ignite fear within Islamists in the crisis-torn Syria.
Zawahiri’s remarks hit out at reports from British newspaper, The Independent, reporting on Friday that the Islamist is “said to have been seized in Daraa in the south-west where he was meeting opposition activists.”
The paper, citing rebel fighters, said that Mohammed, 59, had been on a humanitarian mission and had not been involved in violent acts in Syria.
But Zawahiri he was released from prison less than a year ago and that since then he has not left Egypt.
“I came out of prison less than a year ago after spending 15 years there. Since then, I have not left Egypt,” he told the state-run newspaper al-Ahram in Cairo.
In the late 1990s, an Egyptian military court convicted Zawahiri on terrorism charges and sentenced him to death. Zawahiri spent 14 years in Egyptian jail on terrorism charges, including involvement with the assassination of former President Anwar Sadat in 1981. He has repeatedly denied such charges.
The sentence was revoked in June 2011, four months after a popular Egyptian revolt forced Hosni Mubarak to step down. He was released in March 2011, but later re-arrested. In March 2012 he was acquitted by a military court of all charges, Egypt Independent reported.
Syria's 21-month-old conflict is believed to have drawn hundreds of Islamists into the country to fight alongside the opposition in ousting the embattled President Bashar al-Assad.