Defense lawyers in the New York City terror trial...

By SASCHA BRODSKY  |  Oct. 1, 1995
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NEW YORK, Oct. 1 -- Defense lawyers in the New York City terror trial Sunday expressed surprise and outrage at the verdict that found their clients guilty of plotting to wage a war of urban terrorism. 'I was shocked,' said Lynne Stewart, lawyer for lead defendant Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman. 'The jury basically became enlisted in the government's war against terrorism instead of remembering what their oath was, which was to do justice.' The sheik and nine other men Sunday morning were found guilty of a 'seditious conspiracy to oppose by force the authority of the United States.' Abdel-Rahman, a blind Muslim cleric, was found guilty of leading what prosecutors called a 'jihad or holy war' intended to change U.S. policy in the mideast. Rahman also was convicted of conspiring to murder Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Prosecutors had a hard time covering smiles as they filed into a news conference after the trial. 'This trial has resulted in the triumph of the rule of law over fear,' said U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White. 'Potential terrorists should now have no doubt about our resolve to track them down.' She said the sentencing would take place in late January. In Washington, FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, called the verdicts 'an extraordinary victory in the fight against terrorism.' 'We must constantly be vigilant for those who would, through the planning and carrying out of heinous criminal acts, attack our citizens to further political or other objectives,' Freeh said. 'It remains absolutely essential that law enforcement have the tools necessary to combat the vicious crimes common to terrorism.

'The verdicts today signify our nation's resolve to resist terrorists to the limits of our abilities and authorities,' Freeh added. New York City Councilman Noach Dear, a Jewish politician who said he was one of those targeted in the plot, said the verdict was just. 'This was a great victory for the United States against terrorism,' said a relieved-sounding Dear. 'If you come here to commit terrorist acts, tou will be caught, you will be prosecuted and you will be convicted.' During the eight-month trial, defense attorneys claimed their clients were set up by a paid FBI informant. They also claimed some of the defendants were training for missions to aid Muslims in Bosnia and Afghanistan when they committed acts that prosecutors called terrorist. Stewart said Abdel-Rahman showed no emotion when the verdict was read. 'He told me that he was not the first person to go to jail for his freedom and beliefs and he would not be the last,' Stewart said. 'He also told me not to cry.' Defendant Victor Alvarez, convicted of obtaining weapons for the conspiracy, shouted 'Takbir,' an Arabic word used as encouragement as he was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs. Defendant Fadil Abdelgani followed with the traditional response 'Allahu Akhabar,' meaning 'God is Great.' 'He's an excitable young man,' explained Abdelgani's lawyer Charles Lavine. 'I think we are all disappointed by this verdict. At the worst, we expected a mixed verdict. But this was a fairly categorical rejection.' Later, outside the courthouse, Stewart promised to appeal the verdict, saying, 'We will fight on.' Roger Stavis, attorney for El Sayyid Nosair, said the jury acted out of fear, and that his client was a victim of double jeopardy. Nosair was found innocent of murdering Rabbi Meir Kahane in 1991. He was convicted this time of plotting that murder. 'It was a very hard-fought trial, the jury has spoken, and we think they're wrong,' said Stavis, who added he plans to appeal. 'They were motivated by fear. The ends will justify the means,' said defense attorney Valerie Amsterdam. 'I think it's a sorry day for the American justice system.'

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