Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, a blind Egyptian cleric who died in prison Saturday, was convicted in 1995 along with nine followers of a conspiracy to blow up the United Nations, FBI offices, highway tunnels and other New York-area landmarks in a single day of terror.
He also was convicted at the same trial of plotting to kill former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. He defiantly professed his innocence in the plot, declaring: “This case is nothing but an extension of the American war against Islam.”
Abdel Rahman, who was the spiritual leader of the Gamaa Islamiya terror group, fled Egypt to the US in 1990 and began teaching in a New Jersey mosque. A circle of his followers were convicted in the February 26, 1993, truck bombing of New York’s World Trade Center that killed six people eight years before al-Qaeda’s suicide plane hijackers brought the towers down in 2001.
Some of those involved in his trial had their own notoriety:
El Sayyid Nosair
One of Abdel Rahman’s co-conspirators, Nosair was not only sentenced for his role in the bomb plot but for assassinating militant Rabbi Meir Kahane in a New York hotel in 1990.
Kahane founded the Jewish Defense League — a violent group implicated in a number of terror attacks — before relocating to Israel, where he established the ultra-nationalist Kach party that advocated for the expulsion of Arabs from the Land of Israel.
The Kach party was eventually banned from participating in Israeli elections in 1988 due to its incitement to racism, the only party to ever be banned on such grounds.
Though acquitted of Kahane’s murder, Nosair was sentenced to 22 years in prison on firearms charges in the November 1990 assassination.
Three years later, while in prison, Nosair was also implicated in the first World Trade Center bombings that killed six and injured over a thousand others, through his association with those involved in the attack.
Nosair’s cousin, Ibrahim A. El-Gabrowny, 45, received 57 years for the conspiracy and other charges, including possession of bogus passports and visas intended to get Nosair out of the country following a jailbreak.
Seven other defendants received prison terms of 25 to 35 years for planning what prosecutors called a “war of urban terrorism” aimed at altering US policy in the Middle East.
Stewart, the defense attorney who argued that Abdel Rahman was a spiritual leader prosecuted for his speech, was later convicted of helping the sheikh communicate with his followers. Sentenced to a decade in prison, she was freed on New Year’s Eve in 2013, after doctors concluded she had less than 18 months to live.
As of September 2016, the great-grandmother was still alive and was interviewed by The Associated Press.
Phone messages left for her on Saturday were not returned.
Mukasey was the Manhattan federal court judge who presided over the terror trial and who later served as President George W. Bush’s attorney general from 2007 to 2009. He is currently an attorney with a New York City law firm.
Another former attorney general, Clark represented Abdel Rahman after the sheikh went to prison.
In 1999, Clark alleged that his client had been attacked by a prison officer at a facility in Minnesota. “He said, ‘I don’t complain.’ Still, it’s pretty awful,” Clark said.
The FBI later said it was investigating the claim but it was not immediately clear whatever came of the allegation.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.