The felonious interpreter, Mohammed Yousry, who is awaiting jail for helping the lawyer Lynne Stewart help the terrorist Omar Abdel-Rahman communicate from prison, is trying to portray himself as having been wrongly convicted, the Washington Post reports. Its dispatch, by Michael Powell and Michelle Garcia, appears on our page six this morning. Yousry's defenders portray him as an innocent New York University Ph.D. student who, while freelancing as a translator, unwittingly broke laws by passing on messages between the cleric and his followers. Few will believe him.
Abdel-Rahman is not just any terrorist. The blind sheik is the spiritual leader of the Egyptian-based Islamic Group terrorist organization that has murdered 1,200 people and has boasted of assassinating Anwar el-Sadat. The sheik had been given a life sentence in 1995 for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and for planning to blow up other New York landmarks. Even in jail the sheik still poses a threat to American lives, which is why officials restricted his contact with the outside world and a "special administrative measure" in 1997 gave G-Men permission to monitor his conversations with his lawyers.
Abdel-Rahman's lawyer, Lynne Stewart, signed an agreement accepting these restrictions and agreeing not to pass on messages between the sheik and his followers. Yet that's exactly what Stewart and Yousry, along with an Abdel-Rahman aide and supporter, Ahmed Sattar, were convicted of doing in February. Agents heard Yousry read a note to the sheik from his terrorist followers asking whether they should comply with a cease-fire agreement, and Abdel-Rahman dictated a response to Yousry the next day. Stewart, in a clear case of premeditation, sought to mask the conversation from agents by speaking English in an effort to drown out their conversation in Arabic.
The Washington Post interviewed the interpreter, who feigns being perplexed at how he could have been convicted in the case. The reporters write that "legal experts, civil liberties lawyers and a juror say Yousry's conviction raises many troubling questions, not least how a court-appointed translator working on instruction from lawyers could be held responsible for navigating complicated and dangerous legal waters. "They quote Yousry's defenders as saying he "translated nothing without instruction from defense lawyers." So what?
A jury decided unanimously that Yousry didn't just make a clerical mistake. He aided the leader of a terrorist organization. The war on terror involves going after the terrorists and those who help them. The Americans on the federal jury that convicted Yousry along with Stewart in February understood this. No doubt the interpreter conveys the impression of being a kindly scholar. But it is one of the facts in the kind of twilight war being levied against our country that not everyone is what they seem and danger comes in disguises. New Yorkers are lucky that a jury composed of ordinary men and women was able to see through this to bring to justice the culprits helping the terrorist sheik.