NEW YORK – A civil rights attorney accused of helping a convicted terrorist incite violence against the United States said she would testify Wednesday in her own defense.
"That was a very low blow," Stewart said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. The judge had previously told jurors the case has nothing to do with Sept. 11.
"I want to be the boxer who gets hit with low blows and nevertheless recovers and knocks the guy out," she said.
Stewart will have to overcome three months of government evidence that includes jailhouse conversations between herself and her client, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman (search), convicted in a 1995 plot to blow up New York City landmarks.
Stewart, 65, maintains the conversations show nothing more than a lawyer zealously representing a client.
Prosecutors, though, say Stewart stepped over the line, conspiring with a translator and a U.S. postal worker to help the blind Egyptian sheik communicate with followers who favor terrorism as a tool.
Over a three-decade career, Stewart has defended a range of clients, including revolutionaries, terrorists and mobsters. She how could face nearly 20 years in prison if she is found guilty of aiding terrorism after breaking special rules put in place by the government to stop the sheik from communicating outside prison.
Stewart's testimony, which may last a week or more, is expected to include what she told the sheik before her arrest and what she told thousands of people afterward.
Stewart's co-defendants — Arabic interpreter Mohamed Yousry and postal worker Ahmed Abdel Sattar — are also expected to testify.
Prosecutors declined to comment prior to Stewart's testimony.
In more than two years since her arrest, Stewart has made numerous public statements.
She has traveled the country, speaking mostly to audiences sympathetic to her message that she was swept up in a post Sept. 11-crackdown on civil rights aimed even at the lawyers who defend unpopular clients.
She appeared on "60 Minutes," did numerous other media interviews and wrote an Internet blog on the trial itself.
The flow of words may turn out to be a treasure trove for prosecutors who can shape a cross-examination using hundreds of examples of Stewart's statements.
Stewart said she has reviewed much of what she has said and found herself to be consistent, though not perfectly so.
"I'm human, too," she said. "I believe the upshot is that my true beliefs are my true beliefs and they haven't really changed from the day I got arrested until the day I take the witness stand."