- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 11, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) The arrest of a defense lawyer accused of crossing the line and helping a radical Muslim cleric direct his terrorist circle from behind bars could lead to a pitched battle over attorney-client privilege.
Some lawyers said the arrest of New York lawyer Lynne F. Stewart is a government attack on all defense lawyers.
"Our e-mail network is busy," said Irwin Schwartz, president of the 11,000-member National Association of Defense Trial Lawyers. "Lawyers have discussed for at least the last five years whether or not the Department of Justice is engaged in a war on the criminal defense bar."
Miss Stewart, a 62-year-old left-wing activist known for taking up unpopular causes and despised clients, said attorney-client privilege will be the centerpiece of her defense. She suggested the government had no evidence she went beyond the bounds of constitutionally protected attorney-client conversations.
She was indicted on federal charges of helping Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman communicate with terrorists from his Minnesota prison. Abdel-Rahman is serving a life sentence for conspiring to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and to blow up five New York City landmarks.
The government said Miss Stewart crossed a well-defined legal line. Prosecutors said Miss Stewart made it easier for the Egyptian cleric to convey terrorist messages through a translator. In one instance, they said, Miss Stewart distracted prison guards to do so.
Attorney General John Ashcroft also said the Justice Department would monitor future conversations between the sheik and his attorneys marking the first time the department had invoked a provision in the USA Patriot Act. The act was signed into law on Oct. 26, giving the government broad powers to fight terrorism.
The defense lawyers association has protested the monitoring of attorney-client communications in prisons without court supervision. The association says the practice violates the Constitution.
The accusations against Miss Stewart were based on court-approved monitoring of her conversations with Abdel-Rahman between 1999 and 2001.
Bill Goodman, legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, called Miss Stewart's arrest "a full-scale attack on the Bill of Rights." The center issued a statement saying the arrest was "an attempt to prosecute an attorney for nothing other than mere representation of her client."
Ron Kuby, a civil rights lawyer who also represented the sheik at one time, said he was "shocked, horrified and wondering if I was next."
"As a defense lawyer, you frequently need to transmit information you've received from your clients to third parties to be an effective attorney," he said.

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