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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Finds Sheikh in Exile Guilty

NEW YORK -- A U.S. federal jury has found Egyptian cleric Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman and nine others guilty of plotting to blow up the World Trade Center, bomb the United Nations headquarters, kill Egypt's president and destroy vital highway tunnels in New York.


The guilty verdicts in the wide-ranging conspiracy case came Sunday, the seventh day of deliberations by the 12 members of the anonymous jury.


The blind militant Moslem cleric, who with the others was found guilty of seditious conspiracy and other crimes, faces life in prison when he is sentenced in January.


Also among the defendants was El Sayyid Nosair, who was found guilty of the 1990 murder of radical Rabbi Meir Kahane in New York. Nosair, who earlier had been cleared of state murder charges, also faces the possibility of life in prison.


The other defendants face up to 20 years in prison on the top count of sedition against the U.S. government.


Prosecutors said the deadly plot began with the Kahane killing and, under Abdel-Rahman's direction, grew to include plans to bomb the World Trade Center, the UN and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels in New York, and plans to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and U.S. political leaders.


In response to the verdicts, the sheikh said through his attorney, Abdeen Jabara: "Anyone who has chosen this path in life has to take this in equanimity. I'm not going to be the first one to be imprisoned because of my religious beliefs, and I won't be the last one. We will persevere and continue to be a servant of God."


Outside the courthouse, a phalanx of police officers assembled. Helicopters hovered overhead. Authorities said they were concerned about possible retaliation, especially during Pope John Paul II's visit later in the week and the 50th anniversary celebration of the UN later this month.


Airport operators and air carriers -- which already tightened security in August -- were ordered to adopt even more stringent security measures.


Transportation Secretary Federico Pena did not explicitly refer to the verdicts in asking carriers to review and tighten security measures, saying the decision was based on "a general threat against all U.S. interests at home and abroad."


Some 200 witnesses testified in the case and the jury heard hundreds of hours of secretly recorded conversations between informant Emad Salem, the government's chief witness, and several of the defendants. Under the charge of sedition, the defendants were convicted of conspiring to wage a war of urban terrorism against the United States. Other charges included attempted bombing and attempted murder.