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Civil rights attorney convicted in terror trial

Superseding indictment:  U.S. v. Sattar, et al.  (FindLaw)external link
United States
September 11 attacks

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A New York jury on Thursday convicted U.S. attorney Lynne Stewart and two other defendants of helping terrorists and lying to the U.S. government.

Stewart was found guilty of all five counts naming her, including conspiracy to defraud the United States, providing and concealing material support, and making false statements.

Stewart could face up to 20 years in prison when a judge sentences her July 15.

Jurors also convicted one-time paralegal Ahmed Abdel Sattar and Arabic interpreter Mohamed Yousry on the three counts naming them.

Like Stewart, Yousry could receive up to 20 years in prison. Sattar faces a maximum term of life in prison.

Stewart and Yousry will remain free on bail pending sentencing.

"I'm very shook up, and surprised, and disappointed that the jury didn't see what we saw," Stewart said outside of court.

Fighting back tears and her voice cracking, she said, "I hope [this case] will be a wake-up call to all the citizens of this country and all the people who live here that you can't lock up the lawyers, you can't tell the lawyers how to do the job, you've got to let them operate."

Yousry attorney David Ruhnke said he was "bitterly disappointed" by the verdict. Yousry is an Egyptian immigrant who needs only to complete his dissertation to earn a doctorate in Middle East studies at New York University. His wife and daughter sobbed after hearing the verdict.

Defense claimed political motivations

Stewart, Sattar and Yousry had been on trial for seven months, accused of abetting terrorism by distributing messages from imprisoned Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman.

An Egyptian Muslim cleric, Abdel-Rahman is the spiritual leader of the Islamic Group, an organization the United States labels a terrorist organization that sought the overthrow of Egypt's government.

Rahman, 66, is serving a life sentence after being convicted in 1995 of conspiring to bomb bridges, tunnels and landmark buildings in Manhattan. Followers of the sheik were among the terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993.

A 65-year-old mother of four and grandmother of 12, Stewart is a self-proclaimed political radical who told the jury she has advocated violent "revolution of the people that overthrows institutions."

Stewart, a lawyer for more than 30 years, has represented controversial clients before Rahman, such as the Black Panthers and mafia figures.

Stewart was a member of a legal team that represented Rahman at the trial and afterward. Rahman, who has diabetes and a heart condition, was moved to a super-maximum security federal prison in Colorado, after the 2001 terror attacks, but authorities have since transferred him a federal medical center for prisoners in Missouri.

Stewart has claimed political motivations drove her prosecution.

"I feel so much that I have brought grief to people who didn't deserve to have grief," she said. "But I'd like to think I would do it again, because it was the right thing to do. It's the way a lawyer is supposed to behave."

Prosecution showed surveillance tapes

The government's case against Stewart, Yousry and Sattar revolved around meetings in a Minnesota prison with Rahman in 2000 and 2001. After Rahman's conviction, Stewart visited him about three times a year.

Rahman was kept in solitary confinement and denied visitors, except for his lawyer and immediate family, who did not visit from overseas.

Stewart had signed an agreement with the Bureau of Prisons to abide by restrictions that prohibited disclosure of their conversations and distribution of messages from Rahman to third parties. But on at least one occasion, she appeared to flout those rules.

During the trial, prosecutors played surveillance tape of a two-day May 2000 visit by Stewart to show she provided cover for Yousry as he relayed Islamic Group messages to Rahman, including a Sattar letter seeking guidance on whether the group should continue a "cease-fire" of terrorist activities against Egypt's government.

Prosecutors said Stewart tried to distract prison guards to cover conversations between Yousry and Rahman.

Rahman's captivity in the United States had become a rallying point for Islamic militants around the world, including al Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden.

CNN's Phil Hirschkorn contributed to this report.

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