By GREG B. SMITH
Daily News Staff Writer
Where in the world is Sheik Omar?
Two weeks after his lawyer was charged with helping him send messages from jail, federal prison officials have made convicted terrorist Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman virtually disappear from their system.
No one � not even his lawyers � can find him because he's been removed from the Bureau of Prisons' database.
That makes the sheik unique in the federal prison system. All other inmates � except those in the witness protection program � can be found in a prison database, even the most notorious terrorists.
"We don't know where he is and it's outrageous," said Abdeen Jabara, one of the sheik's lawyers. "It's like we're in South America. People can really disappear here."
Until recently, Abdel-Rahman was serving a life sentence at a federal prison hospital in Rochester, Minn., for a failed 1993 plot to bomb New York landmarks.
But on April 9, his lawyer Lynne Stewart and three associates were arrested on charges of smuggling the sheik's anti-U.S. fatwas out of prison.
Soon after, the feds pulled the 63-year-old sheik out of Rochester and took him � under extremely heavy guard � to another prison somewhere in America.
Mum's the Word
But they're not saying where.
"I can't disclose his location," Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra said. "I can't discuss his location." All they would say was that he is still alive and in custody.
Many terrorist inmates � including those convicted of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and other major attacks � are in the toughest federal jail, the so-called Supermax penitentiary in Florence, Colo. Their presence there is publicly known.
Even some of the terrorists cooperating with the FBI can be found in that system, including Ahmed Ressam, an Al Qaeda operative who plotted to blow up Los Angeles International Airport on New Year's Eve 1999 and is helping the FBI in its Sept. 11 probe.
Until this week, the sheik's presence in Rochester was also a matter of public record in the prison computers.
Now, the bureau's response on its Web site regarding the sheik is, "We have no record of an inmate with [the sheik's] register number ... in our database."
No Sitdown Allowed
Jabara said he asked the Bureau of Prisons to arrange a lawyer-client meeting with the sheik shortly after Stewart was arrested.
He said prison officials refused to tell him where the shiek was or even whether he was still alive.
The sheik is blind and suffers from diabetes. His health has confined him to prison hospitals since his conviction in 1995. His health is of tremendous concern to U.S. law enforcement.
In September, one of the sheik's followers, Yasser Al-Siri, said in a TV interview that if the sheik dies in prison, "There will be a lot of problems for the United States."
Original Publication Date: 4/25/02