NEW YORK -- An Egyptian immigrant, El Sayyid A. Nosair, was acquitted last night of charges that he was the gunman who assassinated Rabbi Meir Kahane last year at a pro-Zionist meeting in a hotel in midtown Manhattan.
The jury also acquitted Mr. Nosair of attempted murder of a postal officer, who, the prosecution said, tried to prevent Mr. Nosair from fleeing the murder scene.
The jury of nine women and three men found Mr. Nosair guilty of lesser charges of assaulting the postal officer and another man, who said he had tried to prevent Mr. Nosair from fleeing.
When the verdicts were announced at 8:15 p.m. in the New York State Supreme Court, supporters of the defendant, a Muslim, burst into cheers.
Friends and supporters of Rabbi Kahane, the leader of the anti-Arab Kach Party in Israel, began chanting, "Death to Nosair," and shouting, "A Jew was murdered!"
Mr. Nosair was stone-faced as the verdicts were announced. A defense lawyer, Michael Warren, said that Mr. Nosair had turned to him when the first verdict was read and said, "All praise is due to Allah."
Mr. Warren said he thought that Mr. Nosair had been acquitted "based on a lack of evidence and serious misrepresentations by prosecution witnesses."
Mr. Nosair, the prosecution said, was at a lecture by Rabbi Kahane Nov. 5, 1990. A principal witness, Ari Gottesman, 21, testified that after the speech he was standing next to Rabbi Kahane when two shots rang out and Rabbi Kahane was fatally wounded.
Mr. Gottesman said that after the gunfire he turned and saw "a dark-skinned, dark-haired" man about a foot away trying to conceal something. The man then began walking hunched over toward an exit.
Mr. Gottesman was the sole witness who identified Mr. Nosair as the gunman.
He and two other witnesses said Mr. Nosair shot and wounded a member of the audience, Irving Franklin, 73, when Mr. Franklin tried to grab Mr. Nosair. Mr. Franklin testified but was unable to identify his assailant.
Mr. Gottesman pointed out Mr. Nosair in the courtroom as the man who "shot the rabbi and the same man I chased out to the cab."
A Postal Service officer, Carlos Acosta, 56, testified that he was outside a post office about a half-block from the hotel on the
night of the shooting.
He identified Mr. Nosair as the man who fired two shots at him. Mr. Acosta, who was hit in the right shoulder, fired at the gunman. Mr. Nosair was felled by one shot that grazed his chin.
The prosecution provided no motive for the slaying.
Mr. Nosair did not testify.
The defense called six witnesses, none of whom supported their theory that Rabbi Kahane had been engaged in a dispute with followers over missing money.