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Lawyer Accused of Plotting With Sheik

Prosecutor Alleges Smuggling of Messages

By Gail Appleson
Thursday, December 30, 2004; Page A02

NEW YORK, Dec. 29 -- A U.S. criminal defense lawyer was part of a plot to help her militant Muslim client smuggle messages out of prison calling for a return to violence in Egypt and the killing of Jews wherever they are, a federal prosecutor said Wednesday.

The accusations were made in closing arguments in the closely watched case against Lynne Stewart, a New York lawyer known for representing the poor and unpopular. Stewart, 65, has denied any wrongdoing and said she followed ethical rules that guide an attorney's behavior.

Lynne Stewart was indicted last fall on charges that she helped imprisoned Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman communicate with his followers and tell them to ratchet up the violence in Egypt. (Helayne Seidman For The Washington Post)

Her case is being followed by the nation's defense lawyers, some of whom are worried that the Bush administration is trying to intimidate attorneys who represent suspected terrorists and other unpopular clients.

Stewart is charged with breaking the law while working for radical cleric Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. He was convicted in 1995 of conspiring to attack U.S. targets and is serving a life sentence. Prosecutors say the plot included the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

The most serious charge against Stewart, providing material support to terrorists, carries a maximum prison term of 15 years.

Stewart, together with the cleric's former paralegal and his translator, used attorney-client visits to the prison to take Abdel Rahman's "terroristic" messages out of prison and deliver them to his violent followers, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Dember said.

"They broke Abdel Rahman out of jail, not literally but figuratively. They made him available to other criminals, the worst kind of criminals -- terrorists," Dember told the court.

The three are accused of helping Abdel Rahman communicate with the Islamic Group, which prosecutors say is a terrorist organization with the cleric as its spiritual leader.

Among the charges is that they helped pass messages from Rifai Ahmed Taha, a militant Islamic Group leader, to Abdel Rahman in prison. Taha urged the end of the cease-fire that the group had observed since its 1997 attack that killed almost 60 foreign tourists in Luxor, Egypt.

Dember said the Luxor attack was a hallmark of the Islamic Group.

"They committed this horrific act in the name of Abdel Rahman to achieve his release," he said. "All they achieved was bloody murder."

In 2000, Stewart called a Reuters correspondent in Egypt and read a statement issued by the cleric saying he had withdrawn his support for the cease-fire. That correspondent was subpoenaed in the case.

Dember also accused defendant Ahmed Abdel Sattar, the cleric's former paralegal, of helping to draft a 2000 fatwa, or religious order, issued in Abdel Rahman's name calling on Muslim men to "fight the Jews and kill them wherever they are found."

Stewart has denied condoning the fatwa.

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