- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 23, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) — A lawyer who has made a career out of defending radicals went on trial yesterday on charges she helped one of her clients — a jailed terrorist sheik — communicate with his followers.

Federal prosecutor Christopher Morvillo told the anonymous jury in his opening statement that Lynne Stewart “used her status as a lawyer as a cloak to smuggle messages into and out of prison.” He said she allowed Omar Abdel-Rahman to “incite terrorism.”

Abdel-Rahman is a blind Egyptian cleric serving a life sentence at a maximum-security federal prison in Florence, Colo., for conspiring to blow up New York landmarks and assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Defense attorney Michael Tigar told the jury “in 40 years in this town, Lynne Stewart has been building for justice, not for terrorism.”

He described her as a “compassionate, skillful and brave lawyer” who has been portrayed falsely by prosecutors relying on erroneous and incomplete information.

Mr. Tigar said his 64-year-old client will testify. She faces 20 years in prison if convicted. Miss Stewart is on trial with two other defendants: a translator for the sheik and a U.S. postal worker.

The three were “able to break Abdel-Rahman’s message of terror out of jail and deliver it to the very people who never should have heard it,” Mr. Morvillo said.

The postal worker, Ahmed Abdel Sattar, faces the most serious charge: conspiring to kidnap and kill people in a foreign country. He could receive life in prison.

Miss Stewart and the Arabic translator, Mohammed Yousry, are charged with providing material support to terrorists. Prosecutors say the crimes occurred from June 1997 to April 2002.

An attorney for Mr. Yousry, David Ruhnke, told jurors his client was “not a terrorist, not a supporter of terrorism. … This is a case that never should have been brought.”

An attorney for Mr. Sattar was scheduled to make his opening statement today.

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