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NEW YORK — Defense attorney Lynne Stewart shook her head, leaned forward and began to cry quietly as a federal jury convicted her Thursday of providing material support to a terrorist group. Shocked supporters who had packed the courtroom of Southern District of New York Judge John Koeltl gasped and sobbed as the jury foreman confirmed that Stewart and her co-defendants, Ahmed Abdel Sattar and Mohamed Yousry, were guilty on all counts in one of the most high-profile anti-terrorism prosecutions since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Speaking to the media outside the courthouse following the verdict, Stewart, who in her long career had stood by defendants many times as they heard the word “guilty,” hugged her attorney, Michael Tigar, who kissed her on the forehead and allowed her to step to the microphone. Tearful and exhausted, Stewart said she was “shook up, surprised and disappointed” by the verdict. But she also mustered a dose of defiance, saying the struggle post-trial and on appeal would hopefully prove that “you can’t lock up the lawyers, you can’t tell the lawyers how to do their job. You’ve got to let them operate.” Stewart, 65, was convicted of helping the outlaw anti-Egyptian organization Islamic Group communicate with her client, imprisoned Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who was serving a life sentence for seditious conspiracy against the United States. Stewart will be sentenced July 15. Prosecutors Andrew Dember, Christopher Morvillo, Robin Baker and Anthony Barkow persuaded the jury that Stewart was the key figure in a conspiracy to violate and evade prison restrictions on the sheik; that she lied when she made written promises to abide by the restrictions; and that she broke the law when she issued a press release for the sheik announcing his withdrawal of support for a cease-fire on attacks by Islamic Group. Stewart claimed the prosecution was a direct assault on the attorney-client privilege and her obligation to zealously represent her client. But the prosecutors argued, and proved, that Stewart had crossed the line in representing the sheik — and the only reason she continued to visit him in prison after his appeals were exhausted was to act as a willing conduit for a group she knew was responsible for the murder of tourists and Egyptian officials. The first line of attack for Stewart’s attorneys, Tigar and Jill Shellow-Lavine, will be post-trial motions to Judge Koeltl under Rule 29 asking him to set aside the verdict. “We will argue that there was insufficient evidence and the judge should, at this point, take the case from the jury,” Shellow-Lavine said. Sattar, the sheik’s paralegal at his 1995 trial, was convicted of the most serious counts in the indictment: conspiracy to kill persons abroad and soliciting crimes of violence. The prosecutors worked hard to show Sattar’s goal was the resumption of violence in Egypt and that he depended on Stewart to get the sheik’s stamp of approval for renewed attacks. The proof that Sattar was engaged in such a conspiracy became a prerequisite to convicting Stewart. The connection between the sheik’s words and the actions of the Islamic Group could not have been drawn without Stewart in the middle. The convictions came just two days after Sattar’s attorneys were buoyed by notes sent to the judge from two jurors. To the defense, the notes indicated the possibility of a mistrial. But Sattar’s lawyers, Barry Fallick and Kenneth Paul, said that possibility seemed to evaporate Wednesday, as another note from the jury, and the changed demeanor of one jury member who they believed might be holding out, seemed to change. The anonymous juror, referred to as No. 7, could be seen wiping tears from her eyes as the verdict was read. And when the individual members of the jury were asked if the verdicts as announced by the foreman were accurate, the juror looked stricken, and twice only mouthed the word “yes.” Finally, Judge Koeltl asked her again, and the juror said “yes” in a barely audible voice. Fallick and Paul knew they had an uphill struggle to win an acquittal for Sattar, who took the witness stand and had to defend his co-authorship of a religious edict, issued in the sheik’s name, calling for the death of “Zionists.” But both lawyers were stunned that the Sattar co-defendants were convicted on their most serious counts — providing material support for terrorism. Outside, Michael Tigar sounded a familiar theme as he attacked the charges against Stewart as a politically motivated assault on a lawyer known for representing controversial clients. The architect of that assault, he said, was former Attorney General John Ashcroft. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales released a statement Thursday praising the prosecution team and calling the verdict “an important step in the Justice Department’s war on terrorism.” The convictions, he said “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.” Tigar also talked of one of the principal grounds for appeal in the case, what he called the appeal to “fear” by the repeated invocation of the name Osama bin Laden by the prosecution. One example of how bin Laden was introduced at trial was evidence that a leading Islamic Group militant, a man named Taha, appeared in a videotape next to bin Laden calling for the sheik’s release. The jury also heard tapes of Sattar speaking by phone to Taha, who was the co-author of Sattar’s edict, while Taha was in Afghanistan training members of Islamic Group. Fallick said attorneys for all the defendants, including David Stern and David Ruhnke for Yousry, “are going to raise the whole specter of bin Laden on appeal.” Mark Hamblett is a reporter with the New York Law Journal, a Recorder affiliate.

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