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All 10 found guilty in NY terror trial

By
SASCHA BRODSKY

NEW YORK, Oct. 1 -- Shouting 'God is Great' in Arabic, the 10 Muslim fundamentalists convicted Sunday of conspiring to wage a war of urban terrorism were led out of a Manhattan courtroom in handcuffs. The men were convicted of key charges relating to plots to bomb New York City landmarks and assassinate political leaders as part of a campaign to change U.S. foreign policy. 'This is an extremely important victory for the city, the country and the world,' U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White said at a news conference after the trial. 'It sends a message that law enforcement will vigorously pursue all terrorist plots which threaten our co-existence.' White rejected defense arguments during the trial that the convicted men were being prosecuted because of their Islamic faith, saying 'what this trial was clearly not about was religious beliefs.' Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, a 56-year-old blind Egyptian cleric who was the lead defendant in the case, was found guilty of all five charges for directing his followers to wage a Jihad, or holy war, on United States soil. The jury saw a number of videotapes of Abdel-Rahman speeches, including one in which he proclaimed his radical followers should be proud to be terrorists and that they terrorize those he saw as enemies of Islam including the United States. Another main defendant in the case, El Sayyid Nosair, was found guilty of all but one charge. The Manhattan federal court jury convicted him of planning the 1990 murder of a radical rabbi -- a murder for which he was acquitted several years earlier.

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The top charge, of which all defendants were found guilty, was seditious conspiracy, which carries 35 years to life imprisonment. The government said the defendants wanted to kill thousands of Americans by using powerful car bombs to blow up Hudson River crossings, drowning the motorists driving from New York City to New Jersey. They also were accused of planning to follow up the massive 1993 blast at the twin towers by bombing the FBI headquarters building in lower Manhattan, as well as the United Nations. Prosecutors said the radicals also targeted specific individuals for kidnapping and bombing schemes, and had drawn up elaborate plans to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on a planned trip to the United States by ambushing him with guns and explosives outside a hotel. During the trial, more than 135 government witnesses testified and about 125 secretly-recorded audio and video tapes were either played for jurors or read to them in transcripts translated from Arabic. Many of the conversations by recorded by FBI informant Emad Salem. Defendant Victor Alvarez shouted the Arabic word for encouragement, 'Takbir,' as he was led out of the courtroom. Defendant Fadil Abdelgani shouted the traditional response 'Allahu Akbar' -- God is great -- as marshals took hold of him. As the jury shuffled somberly out of the courtroom for the last time after the eight-month trial, they glanced quickly at the defendants. The jury of six men and six women delivered the verdict to a completely silent courtroom after six full days of deliberations. Outside the courtroom, defense lawyers reacted angrily to the conviction. 'I think that fear has been lurking in the back of the mind of this jury,' said Lynne Stewart, defense attorney for Abdel-Rahman. 'It was carried through by their treatment and the security in the courtroom. The message here is put a Muslim on trial, and they'll convict him.' Prosecutors charged the defendants variously with participating in a series of interlocking conspiracies: --the 1990 assassination of radical Rabbi Meir Kahane at a midtown Manhattan hotel; --the bombing of the World Trade Center, which killed six and injured more than 1,000; --a plot to blow up New York City landmarks, including the United Nations, FBI headquarters, the Holland and Lincoln tunnels and bridges; and --a plan to assassinate political enemies, including Mubarak. Prosecutors charged that the defendants wanted to punish the United States for its pro-Israeli policies. During the trial, prosecutors presented tapes of sermons in which Abdel-Rahman railed against Mubarak, and testimony from informants who said he told them to kill the Egyptian president. Stewart portrayed her client as a frail and devout holy man who was set up by informant Salem. Salem's testimony and tapes formed both the centerpiece of the government's case and one of its potential weaknesses. The defense attacked Salem's credibility, saying he failed four lie- detector tests, lied on the stand in an unrelated case, leaked information to Egyptian intelligence agents while working for the FBI, and was paid $1 million for his services. Defense attorneys also focused on alleged improprieties between Salem and his FBI handlers. They argued that in the wake of the World Trade Center bombing, FBI officials were so anxious to arrest the perpetrators that they gave Salem a dangerous amount of latitude. Convicted Sunday were: Omar Abdel-Rahman, charged with leading the conspiracy; El Sayyid Nosair, charged with murdering radical rabbi Meir Kahane; Ibrahim El-Gabrowny; charged with organizing a terrorist training camp; Clement Hampton El, charged with weapons possession; Amir Abdelgani, charged with the construction of bombs; Victor Alvarez provided firearms; Mohammed Saleh agreed to provide money and fuel oil for bombs; Fadil Abdelgani; Tarig Elhassan, and Fares Khallafalla. Nosair and one other defendant were found innocent of transporting explosives.

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During the trial, prosecutors presented tapes of sermons in which Abdel-Rahman rails against Mubarak, and testimony from informants who say he told them to kill the Egyptian president. Stewart portrayed her client as a frail and devout holy man who was set up by government informant Emad Salem. Salem's testimony and tapes formed both the centerpiece of the government's case -- and one of its potential weaknesses. The defense attacked Salem's credibility, saying he failed four lie- detector tests, lied on the stand in an unrelated case, leaked information to Egyptian intelligence agents while working for the FBI, and was paid $1 million for his services. Defense attorneys also focused on alleged improprieties between Salem and his FBI handlers. They argued that in the wake of the World Trade Center bombing, FBI officials were so anxious to arrest the perpetrators that they gave Salem a dangerous amount of latitude. Convicted Sunday were: Omar Abdel-Rahman, charged with leading the conspiracy; El Sayyid Nosair, charged with murdering radical rabbi Meir Kahane; Ibrahim El-Gabrowny; charged with organizing a terrorist training camp; Clement Hampton El, charged with weapons possesion; Amir Abdelgani, charged with the construction of bombs; Victor Alvarez provided firearms; Mohammed Saleh agreed to provide money and fuel oil for bombs; Fadil Abdelgani; Tarig Elhassan, and Fares Khallafalla. All of the defendants face numerous other charges. Nosair and one other defendant were found innocent of transporting explosives.

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