NEW YORK A disbarred New York lawyer convicted in 2005 on charges of supporting terrorism by helping an imprisoned blind Egyptian cleric smuggle messages to militant followers was ordered to prison by a U.S. federal appeals court that upheld her conviction on Tuesday.
The appeals court also ordered the trial judge to consider lengthening the 28-month prison sentence given to civil rights lawyer Lynne Stewart, 70, saying the judge had declined to consider whether Stewart committed perjury.
Stewart was sentenced in October 2006 to 28 months in prison for helping her client, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, contact the Islamic Group, which the U.S. government lists as a terrorist organization.
Abdel-Rahman was convicted in 1995 of conspiring to attack U.S. targets in a plot that U.S. prosecutors said included the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The twin towers of the World Trade Center were later toppled in the 2001 attacks on the United States carried out by the group al Qaeda.
Prosecutors said messages Stewart passed on for Abdel-Rahman could have incited violence in Egypt.
Evidence in the case against Stewart included a call the lawyer made to a Reuters correspondent in Egypt in which she read a statement issued by the cleric saying he had withdrawn his support for the Islamic Group's ceasefire in Egypt.
In its nearly 200-page ruling, the U.S. second circuit appeals court ordered Stewart to begin serving her sentence.
Stewart had been released on bail pending the appeal. She could have been sentenced to more than 15 years in prison after being convicted on charges of supporting terrorism. Prosecutors had sought up to 30 years.
Stewart was tried along with Mohamed Yousry, an Arabic language translator working for her, and New York postal worker Ahmed Sattar.
Sattar was sentenced to 24 years in prison and Yousry to 20 months. The appeals court also said the trial judge could reconsider the sentences of those two men as well.
(Reporting by Christine Kearney, editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Will Dunham)