Interactivist Info Exchange
Collaborative Authorship, Collective Intelligence
Thursday February 10 2005
from the who's-next? dept.
Lawyer Lynne Stewart Convicted of Helping Terrorists
Larry Neumeister, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — A veteran civil rights lawyer was convicted Thursday of crossing the line by smuggling messages of violence from one of her jailed clients — a radical Egyptian sheik — to his terrorist disciples on the outside.
The jury has been deliberating off-and-on over the past month in the case of Lynne Stewart, 65, a firebrand, left-wing activist known for representing radicals and revolutionaries in her 30 years on the New York legal scene. The jury deliberated 13 days in all.
Stewart faces up to 20 years in prison on charges that included conspiracy, giving material support to terrorists and defrauding the U.S. government.
Stewart sat stoically in a courtroom filled with her supporters, who gasped when the verdict was read.
The trial focused attention on the line between zealous advocacy and criminal behavior by a lawyer. Some defense lawyers saw the case as a government warning to attorneys to tread carefully in terrorism cases.
The jury also convicted a U.S. postal worker, Ahmed Abdel Sattar, of plotting to "kill and kidnap persons in a foreign country" by publishing an edict urging the killing of Jews and their supporters. A third defendant, Arabic interpreter Mohamed Yousry, was convicted of providing material support to terrorists. Sattar could face life in prison and Yousry up to 20 years. Stewart was the lawyer for Omar Abdel-Rahman, a blind sheik sentenced to life in prison in 1996 for conspiring to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and destroy several New York landmarks, including the U.N. building and the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels. Stewart's co-defendants also had close ties to Abdel-Rahman.
Prosecutors said Stewart and the others carried messages between the sheik and senior members of a Egyptian-based terrorist organization, helping spread Abdel-Rahman's venomous call to kill those who did not subscribe to his extremist interpretation of Islamic law.
At the time, the sheik was in solitary confinement in Minnesota under special prison rules to keep him from communicating with anyone except his wife and his lawyers.
Prosecutor Andrew Dember argued that Stewart and her co-defendants essentially "broke Abdel-Rahman out of jail, made him available to the worst kind of criminal we find in this world — terrorists."
Stewart, who once represented Weather Underground radicals and mob turncoat Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, repeatedly declared her innocence, maintaining she was unfairly targeted by overzealous prosecutors.
But she also testified that she believed violence was sometimes necessary to achieve justice: "To rid ourselves of the entrenched, voracious type of capitalism that is in this country that perpetuates sexism and racism, I don't think that can come nonviolently."
A major part of the prosecution's case was Stewart's 2000 release of a statement withdrawing the sheik's support for a cease-fire in Egypt by his militant followers. Prosecutors, though, could point to no violence that resulted from the statement.
Videotape of prison conversations between Stewart and the sheik also were played for jurors — recordings the defense denounced as an intrusion into attorney-client privilege.