Last week it emerged that, in 2003, Democratic Senate hopeful Kyrsten Sinema had promoted campus appearances by Lynne Stewart, a radical lawyer, while Stewart was being prosecuted for providing material support to terrorism. Having been called out on this, Sinema has distorted basic facts of the case.
Sinema represents Arizona’s 9th district in the House and is locked in a tight race against Martha McSally, who represents the state’s 2nd district, for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Jeff Flake.
As it happens, Ms. Stewart, who died in 2017, was my main adversary in the 1995 terrorism prosecution of her client, Omar Abdel Rahman, better known as the “Blind Sheikh.” Abdel Rahman (who also died in 2017, just a few weeks before Stewart) was the jihadist whom Stewart was convicted of abetting; she helped him communicate with his murderous Egyptian terrorist organization from the American prison where he was serving a life sentence.
I am thus in a position to counter Representative Sinema’s misrepresentations about her advocacy on Stewart’s behalf.
A leading light of the notoriously jihadist-friendly lawyer left, Sinema now portrays herself as a moderate progressive. To the contrary, her political activism began when she co-founded a “social justice” organization, Local to Global Justice, while studying law at Arizona State University. In that connection, Sinema urged people in what Fox News describes as a “now-closed Yahoo group” to attend two 2003 events at which Stewart was the featured speaker.
At that time, Stewart was under federal indictment for providing material support to terrorism. Essentially, she and two co-defendants, longtime Abdel Rahman aides Ahmed Abdel Sattar and Mohammed Yousry, were accused of facilitating the Blind Sheikh’s communications with the Islamic Group (Gama’at al Islamia), the Egyptian terrorist organization the Blind Sheikh had helped found in the early 1980s (when it participated in the assassination of President Anwar al-Sadat).
By the time Stewart and her co-defendants committed the crimes alleged in the indictment, the Blind Sheikh had been convicted (in the case I prosecuted) of (a) orchestrating a terrorist war against the United States that included the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a subsequent (unsuccessful) plot to bomb New York City landmarks; (b) soliciting attacks on U.S. military installations; and (c) conspiring to murder — and soliciting the murder of — Egypt’s then-president, Hosni Mubarak. Sentenced to life imprisonment, the Blind Sheikh thereafter issued the fatwa (i.e., the Islamic-law edict) that al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden credited with authorizing the 9/11 attacks. Regarding the United States, Abdel Rahman had urged
Muslims everywhere to dismember their nation, tear them apart, ruin their economy, provoke their corporations, destroy their embassies, attack their interests, sink their ships, . . . shoot down their planes, [and] kill them on land, at sea, and in the air. Kill them wherever you find them.
I’ve previously recounted the lengths to which the Islamic Group (Gama’at) went in attempting to extort the United States government to release the Blind Sheikh:
In 1997, Gama’at threatened to “target . . . all of those Americans who participated in subjecting [Abdel Rahman’s] life to danger” — “every American official, starting with the American president [down] to the despicable jailer.” The organization promised to do “everything in its power” to obtain his release.
Six months later, Gama’at jihadists set upon 58 foreign tourists and several police officers at an archeological site in Luxor, Egypt, brutally shooting and slicing them to death. The terrorists left behind leaflets — including in the mutilated torso of one victim — demanding that the Blind Sheikh be freed.
Gama’at subsequently issued a statement warning that its forcible struggle against the Egyptian regime would proceed unless Mubarak met its three demands: the implementation of sharia, the cessation of diplomatic relations with Israel, and “the return of our Sheikh and emir to his land.”
In March 2000, terrorists associated with the Abu Sayyaf group kidnapped some tourists in the Philippines and threatened to behead them if Abdel Rahman and two other convicted terrorists were not freed. Authorities later recovered two decapitated bodies (four other hostages were never accounted for).
On September 21, 2000, only three weeks before al-Qaeda’s bombing of the U.S.S. Cole [killing 17 members of the U.S. Navy], al-Jazeera televised a “Convention to Support the Honorable Omar Abdel Rahman.” Front and center were Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri (then bin Laden’s deputy, now his successor as emir of al-Qaeda). They warned that unless Sheikh Abdel Rahman was freed, jihadist attacks against the United States would be stepped up. At the same event, Mohammed Abdel Rahman, an al-Qaeda operative who is one of the Blind Sheikh’s sons, exhorted the crowd to “avenge your Sheikh” and “go to the spilling of blood.”
These are the jihadists whom Stewart helped the Blind Sheikh consult with and direct by unlawfully transmitting messages, in contravention of enhanced confinement measures the Justice Department’s Bureau of Prisons (BOP) had put in place to prevent communications between the convicted terrorist leader and his subordinates.
After she was indicted in 2002, Stewart was lauded by many radical left-wing groups that opposed our nation’s forcible response to the 9/11 attacks. Sinema’s Local to Global Justice was among these groups. This comes as no surprise — Power Line’s Scott Johnson collects a number of Sinema’s noxious quotations from that time, including her defense of people who “went to go fight in the Taliban army” in Afghanistan. (The Taliban was the host government that gave safe haven to al-Qaeda and made the 9/11 attacks possible. The Taliban has been fighting U.S. forces for 17 years.)
Fox News recounts that, in promoting Stewart, Sinema maintained that the lawyer was “emphatically not guilty.” According to Sinema, Stewart was charged only because of surveillance powers enabled by the “hastily enacted PATRIOT Act.” Sinema insisted that Stewart was merely “doing her job for the past 27 years as an outspoken criminal defense lawyer.”
These claims are frivolous, notwithstanding their straight-faced restatement by Sinema’s Senate campaign.
In reality, Stewart was emphatically guilty of materially supporting terrorism — so much so that, after she was convicted, a federal appeals court ordered that she be resentenced because the trial court had imposed an appallingly light 23-month term. Moreover, the crimes of which Stewart was convicted — false statements, fraud against the United States, and material support to terrorism — had nothing to do with the PATRIOT Act. Indeed, most of the conduct leading to Stewart’s indictment predated the PATRIOT Act. The surveillance of Stewart’s meetings in prison with the Blind Shiekh was pursuant to BOP rules, which Stewart willfully flouted after expressly promising to abide by them.
Furthermore, at the relevant time, Stewart was no longer representing Abdel Rahman in the capacity of a criminal-defense lawyer. By then, the Blind Sheikh’s convictions had been upheld by the appellate courts. He was no longer an “accused,” and she was no longer defending him on charges. Patently, Stewart involved herself in visits and communications with the Blind Sheikh because, under BOP rules, it was easier for a lawyer, rather than Abdel Rahman’s non-lawyer aides, to get access to him while he was incarcerated under the enhanced confinement conditions imposed on convicted terrorists.
Contrary to the revisionist history she now attempts to peddle, Kyrsten Sinema was not a mere champion of due process. Plain and simple, Sinema was a public apologist for Lynne Stewart, who had brazenly abetted a notorious anti-American terrorist and his infamous jihadist organization. This stance was completely consistent with Sinema’s unabashed radicalism at the time. There is no question that Representative Sinema had a First Amendment right to express her views . . . just as Arizona voters in the ongoing Senate campaign have every right and reason to weigh both her advocacy on Stewart’s behalf and her disingenuous defense of it.