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Lawyer Seeks an End to Her Terror Charges

June 14, 2003|From Times Wire Services

NEW YORK — A defense attorney asked a federal judge Friday to dismiss charges against a lawyer accused of helping a jailed Egyptian cleric disseminate messages to a terrorist group.

Civil rights lawyer Lynne Stewart should be protected by the attorney-client privilege and the 1st Amendment, said her attorney, Michael E. Tigar.

Prosecutor Christopher Morvillo argued that those privileges do not protect a lawyer from violating the law, especially when it involves national security.

Stewart was charged last year with helping deliver messages from her client, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, who is serving a life sentence for conspiring to blow up New York City landmarks and assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Mohammed Yousry, an Arabic translator, and Ahmed Abdel Sattar, a U.S. postal worker, also are accused of helping relay messages from the blind cleric to the Islamic Group, described by prosecutors as a radical Egyptian-based terrorist group.

All three have pleaded not guilty.

"We are defending the right to defend," Tigar told U.S. District Judge John Koeltl, who will decide the motions for dismissal later.

The charges against Stewart carry a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.

Stewart represented Abdel-Rahman at his 1995 trial. Under a special order obtained by the Justice Department, Abdel-Rahman was to have limited contact with the outside world, and conversations with his lawyer and staff were to be limited to legal matters.

"Lawyers have 1st Amendment rights they may and must vigorously exercise on behalf of their clients," Tigar said. "The government says what she was doing had nothing to do with being a lawyer ... that's nonsense."

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