Lynne Stewart, an outspoken lawyer known for aggressively defending a long list of unpopular clients, has been convicted by a federal jury in Manhattan of aiding Islamic terrorism by smuggling messages out of jail from a terrorist client.
Stewart was convicted Thursday on all five counts of providing material aid to terrorism and of lying to the government when she pledged to obey federal gag rules imposed on her client, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. Her two co-defendants, Ahmed Abdel Sattar and Mohamed Yousry, were also convicted of all charges against them.
The verdict was a major victory for Justice Department prosecutors in one of the country’s most important terror cases since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Stewart’s indictment in April 2002 was announced in Washington by John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, and the verdict was hailed Thursday by his successor, Alberto Gonzales.
The convictions “send a clear, unmistakable message that this department will pursue both those who carry out acts of terrorism and those who assist them with their murderous goals,” Gonzales said.
After an exhausting trial that lasted more than seven months, the jurors announced their verdict after 12 days of deliberations that spanned four weeks.
In a case that was watched by lawyers nationwide, the jurors were persuaded that Stewart had crossed a professional line, from vigorously representing her client to conspiring in his plans to set off violence in Egypt.
Afterward, Stewart said she was stunned by the verdict and vowed to appeal. She called the trial a government assault on the practice of law.
“I see myself as being a symbol of what people rail against when they say our civil liberties are eroded,” she said to supporters outside of the federal district courthouse.