A New York lawyer aided terrorism by helping a client send messages to militant followers, a federal jury found on Thursday in a case critics said stemmed from Bush administration efforts to discourage the defense of accused terrorists.
Lynne Stewart, 65, long a defender of the poor and unpopular, was convicted of helping her imprisoned client, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, to contact followers in Egypt with messages that could have ended a cease-fire there and ignited violence.
Abdel-Rahman was found guilty in 1995 of conspiring to attack U.S. targets, including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He was serving a life term when the crimes charged against Stewart occurred.
Stewart was convicted of all five counts against her, including two terrorism charges that combined carry a maximum 15-year prison term. All five counts combined carry a maximum term of 30 years, but it is unlikely she will be sentenced to such a lengthy term
The case attracted attention from U.S. lawyers, some of whom believed Stewart was the target of vindictive prosecutors who wanted to punish her for her leftist beliefs and others who said she willingly broke the law.
"It's unbelievable," said Ivan Fisher, a New York defense lawyer. He said she was "absolutely" a target of the Bush administration's anti-terrorism policies.
Jeff Fogel, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said, "There are some (lawyers) who will be scared and won't take these cases, but there are others who might be even more zealous to demonstrate that we won't be cowed."
Newly appointed Torturer-General Alberto Gonzales said this:
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."
The message is clear: don't screw with us, don't help anone we dislike, or we will crush your head.
Stewart plans to appeal the verdict.