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Judge Allows Bin Laden Evidence in Trial of New York Lawyer

Lynne Stewart is accused of helping a radical cleric pass messages from prison.

June 12, 2004|From Newsday

NEW YORK — A judge ruled Friday that a federal jury can hear the 2000 fatwa Osama bin Laden issued declaring he wanted to "kill Americans" when considering the case against activist lawyer Lynne Stewart.

U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl also ruled that jurors can hear a witness describe the 1997 killings of 58 tourists and four Egyptians in Luxor, Egypt.

Jury selection begins June 21.

Stewart and her co-defendants, Mohammed Yousry and Ahmed Abdel Sattar, are charged with conspiring with imprisoned radical Muslim cleric Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman between 1997 and 2002 to help pass messages to his followers in violation of special restrictions the government imposed on the cleric.

The restrictions, called "special administrative measures," or SAMs, severely limit Abdel Rahman's contacts with the outside world.

Stewart defended Rahman in his 1995 trial in which he and his followers were convicted in a foiled plot to bomb New York landmarks. Stewart, who continued to represent Abdel Rahman after his imprisonment, has denied wrongdoing, as have her co-defendants.

According to reports, the extremists who carried out the Luxor attack scattered leaflets at the site of the killings espousing support for the Islamic Group and calling for the release of Abdel Rahman, who is serving a life term.

Prosecutors contend that the Luxor attack is important to their case against Sattar because he is charged with conspiring in a plot to kill and kidnap people.

Whereas defense lawyers say the Islamic Group leaders imposed a cease-fire after the Luxor attack, prosecutors charge Rahman was part of a faction who opposed the cease-fire and was allegedly able to withdraw his support for it with the help of Stewart and Yousry.

Ken Paul, a lawyer for Sattar, criticized Koeltl's decision.

"In this atmosphere we live in today, if there is discussion, testimony or information about Osama bin Laden, it makes the job of a juror that much more difficult to keep it out of their minds," he said.

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