Stewart–the radical defense attorney accused of helping her terrorist client, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, communicate messages to his followers from prison in violation of government-imposed security measures–was found guilty today on all of the counts against her, including conspiracy and providing material support to terrorists. Rahman, the “blind sheikh,” was convicted for his role in the first World Trade Center bombing and placed under strict isolation by the government due to his role as the “spiritual leader” of the Islamic Group (which, among other things, sought to topple the Egyptian government).
Stewart had defended Rahman in his trial and continued to serve as an attorney of his thereafter. A major part of the government’s case against her was a statement she released in 2000 expressing the sheikh’s opinion that his followers in the Islamic Group should reevaluate a ceasefire they had made with the Egyptian government a few years earlier (in other words, suggesting they return to violence). Stewart’s defense against the charges was that she was acting as a zealous attorney, protecting her client’s right to legal counsel and free speech against an overbearing U.S. government. Yet she had no reason to be working on his behalf at that point; her cause was a political one, aimed, it seems, at returning him to Egypt.
Mohammed Yousry, another defendant in the case, served as a translator (and beyond) during Stewart’s meetings with the sheikh; he was convicted of providing material support to terrorists for his role in relaying messages between Rahman and his followers. A third defendant, Ahmed Abdel Sattar, was found guilty of conspiring to “kill and kidnap persons in a foreign country.”
Stewart may have thought she was doing the right thing: She certainly doesn’t seem sinister, though she’s also said she doesn’t have a problem using violence to advance radical ends. Most of all she was overtaken by a wrongheaded ideology that led her to extremely dangerous behavior. Perhaps she realizes that now, but if so it’s unfortunately far too late.