Terror-Assisting Lawyer Convicted
Ms. Stewart was convicted on two counts of conspiring to provide material aid to terrorists, by making the views and instructions of Mr. Abdel Rahman available to his followers in the Islamic Group, an organization in Egypt with a history of terrorist violence. She was also convicted of three counts of perjury and defrauding the government for flouting federal prison rules that barred Mr. Abdel Rahman, a blind Islamic cleric, from communicating with anyone outside his federal prison in Minnesota except his lawyers and his wife.Convicted on all counts along with Ms. Stewart were Ahmed Abdel Sattar and Mohamed Yousry:
Ms. Stewart, naturally, proclaimed the righteousness of her cause.
Mr. Sattar, 45, an Egyptian-born postal worker from Staten Island who worked as a paralegal in the sheik's 1995 trial, was convicted of conspiring to kill and kidnap in a foreign country, the most serious charge in the trial. He was also convicted of soliciting violence, because of an October 2000 fatwa, or religious edict, that he helped compose that called on Muslims around the world "to fight the Jews and kill them wherever they are." He has been imprisoned and will remain at the Metropolitan Correctional Center until his sentence.The other co-defendant, Mr. Yousry, 48, an Arabic-language interpreter who helped Ms. Stewart and other lawyers speak with the sheik, was convicted of three counts of terrorism and conspiracy. Like Ms. Stewart, he was out on bail last night.
"I see myself as being a symbol of what people rail against when they say our civil liberties are eroded," she said to a small cluster of her supporters outside the federal district courthouse. "I hope this will be a wake-up call to all the citizens of this country, that you can't lock up the lawyers, you can't tell the lawyers how to do their jobs."
"I will fight on, I'm not giving up," she promised defiantly. "I know I committed no crime. I know what I did was right."
But then her voice wavered and tears came to her eyes.
Long before Ms. Stewart took up the defense of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind Egyptian cleric on whose account she was convicted yesterday, she was taking cases that no one else wanted. Among her more prominent clients were a Mafia hit man, leftist revolutionaries and a man accused of trying to kill police officers. But she also defended the poor and obscure.
Some say that Ms. Stewart never gave up the ideals of the 1960's. In the 1995 interview, Ms. Stewart said the struggle by Egyptians against their authoritarian government was "the only hope for change there, the one that gathers the imagination of the people, that motivates them."
Sheik Omar Adbel Rahman preaches violent revolution and the imposition of sharia law. He is an exponent of the most virulent form of Islamist thought - the same brand advocated by Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. His ideology demonizes democracy, subjugates women and advocates the murder of civilians, the death penalty for minor crimes, the persecution of homosexuals - all of which would seem to offend leftist sensibilities. However, Sheik Omar Adbel Rahman is a sworn enemy of the US and has plotted to overthrow the current Egyptian government, which has allied itself with the US. Thus, the sheik and his followers are the left's new best friends.
Apparently, Ms. Stewart will gladly defend anyone who attacks the U.S. This makes her popular in certain New York circles, and among lawyers, generally.
[Ms. Stewart took up Sheik Omar Adbel Rahman's] defense in 1994, shortly before his trial, after two other civil rights lawyers had been taken off the case. The sheik, a spiritual leader of the Islamic jihad movement, was accused of plotting to blow up New York City landmarks. He was convicted and sentenced to life in federal prison, but Ms. Stewart contended that he had been made a target by the United States government and continued to defend him."He's being framed because of his political and religious teachings," Ms. Stewart said in an interview in 1995. Those qualities aligned him, she said, with others she had defended, like David J. Gilbert, a member of the Weather Underground who was convicted in the 1981 Brink's armored-car robbery in Rockland County, or Richard C. Williams, who was convicted of setting off bombs at military sites and corporate offices in the early 1980's.
After Sept. 11, 2001, the Islamic cause became unpopular in the United States. Ms. Stewart's supporters say that the case against her stuck only because the political environment in the country had changed.
But if the left has lost a champion in Ms. Stewart, the Times is quick to suggest a replacement. Running alongside the account of Ms. Stewart's conviction today is a long, glowing profile of William H. Goodman, another New York lawyer who zealously represents Islamist terrorists, including Mohammed Ali Hassan al-Moayad who is accused of fundraising for al Qaeda and Hamas. The Times practically fawns over Mr. Goodman's leftwing credentials:
He is a proud relic of the anti-establishment legal tradition. He was virtually swaddled in the legal wars decades ago over trade unions, the Communist Party and civil rights. His father, Ernest Goodman, was a prominent left-leaning lawyer in Detroit.
Sure, Mr. Goodman said in his faded Manhattan office this week on an off day in the sheik's trial, he had toyed for a while with striking out in some other direction. But after graduating from the University of Chicago and its law school, exposure to lawyers he saw as courageous fighters in the causes of the 1960's left him with a fervor for the family business of standing up for the forgotten and the unpopular.
"If I wanted to be part of the most passionate struggles that were affecting society and the world," he said, "I could do it as a lawyer."
Mr. Goodman's work there, he said, was in familiar territory. Almost instantly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he said, he knew that lawyers with views like his would be busy for years. The center's lawyers challenged the treatment of detainees and asserted that the United States government illegally shipped suspects to countries where they were likely to be tortured to get information from them.In an interview at the time, his description of the challenge he said he faced drew wide attention among lawyers who were critics of the Bush administration. "My job is to defend the Constitution from its enemies," he said in a November 2001 article in The New York Times. "Its main enemies right now are the Justice Department and the White House."
Odd. After September 11th, most people realized that the US was under attack and needed to be defended. Mr. Goodman, however, came to the exact opposite conclusion. In the mind of the modern leftist, only America (Western Civilization, Capitalism, etc.) is guilty. No one else. Ever. But Mr. Goodman's mindset is one that the Times finds so admirable that it felt necessary to put it in print to offset Ms. Stewart's demise.