[News] Rights Lawyer Vows to Appeal Conviction

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Fri Feb 11 08:46:56 EST 2005


Rights Lawyer Vows to Appeal Conviction

http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-4793237,00.html
Friday February 11, 2005 8:31 AM

AP Photo NYDK103

By LARRY NEUMEISTER

Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - A veteran civil rights lawyer known for representing 
radicals and revolutionaries in her 30 years on the New York legal scene 
has vowed to fight her conviction for smuggling messages of violence from 
one of her jailed clients to his terrorist disciples.

Lynne Stewart, 65, a firebrand, left-wing activist, was convicted Thursday 
of conspiracy, providing material support to terrorists, defrauding the 
government and making false statements.

``It's a dark day for civil liberties and for civil liberties lawyers in 
this country,'' attorney Ron Kuby said Thursday. ``In the post 9-11 era, 
where dissidents are treated as traitors, it's perhaps no surprise that a 
zealous civil rights lawyer becomes a convict.''

Kuby, who briefly represented Omar Abdel-Rahman after the radical Egyptian 
sheik's 1993 arrest, said the verdict was a ``terrible message to send at a 
time when we need civil rights lawyers more than ever.''

A tearful Stewart insisted she did nothing wrong after taking over 
Abdel-Rahman's case and representing him until her arrest in 2002. The 
blind cleric was convicted in 1995 of plotting to blow up New York 
landmarks and assassinate Egypt's president.

``I hope this is a wake up call to all the citizens of this country,'' she 
said outside court. ``You can't lock up the lawyers.''

Lawyers have said Stewart most likely would face a 20-year sentence. She 
will remain free on bail but must stay in New York until her July 15 
sentencing.

Vowing to appeal, Stewart blamed the verdict on inflammatory evidence that 
included videotape of Osama bin Laden urging support for the jailed 
Abdel-Rahman, who prosecutors said communicated with the outside world with 
Stewart's help.

``When you put Osama bin Laden in a courtroom and ask the jury to ignore 
it, you're asking a lot,'' she said.

Other lawyers viewed the verdict as reasonable.

``I think lawyers need to be advocates but they don't need to be 
accomplices,'' said Peter Margulies, a law professor at Roger Williams 
University in Rhode Island who has studied terrorism cases. ``I think the 
evidence suggested that Lynne Stewart had crossed the line.''

The trial focused on the line between zealous advocacy and criminal 
behavior by a lawyer. Some defense lawyers saw the case as a government 
warning to attorneys to tread carefully in terrorism cases.

``The purpose of this prosecution ... was to send a message to lawyers who 
represent alleged terrorists that it's dangerous to do so,'' said Michael 
Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who was not 
involved in the case.

The jury heard two vastly different portraits of Stewart. Prosecutors 
described her as an essential and willing aide to terrorists, while defense 
attorney Michael Tigar focused on a lengthy legal career of representing 
the destitute and the despised.

The trial before U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl began in late June, 
with prosecutor Christopher Morvillo telling the jury in his opening 
statement that Stewart ``used her status as a lawyer as a cloak to smuggle 
messages into and out of prison.'' He said she allowed Abdel-Rahman, the 
blind sheik, to ``incite terrorism.''

Prosecutors said Stewart broke a promise to the government by letting 
outsiders communicate with the sheik, who was in solitary confinement under 
special prison rules designed to stop him from communicating with anyone 
except his wife and his lawyers.

Tigar suggested the case was an intrusion into attorney-client privilege as 
the government eavesdropped on prison conversations between Stewart and the 
sheik.

The anonymous jury, which deliberated 13 days over the past month before 
convicting Stewart, also convicted a U.S. postal worker, Ahmed Abdel 
Sattar, of conspiracy for plotting to ``kill and kidnap persons in a 
foreign country'' by publishing an edict urging the killing of Jews and 
their supporters. A third defendant, Arabic interpreter Mohamed Yousry, was 
convicted of providing material support to terrorists. Sattar could face 
life in prison and Yousry about 20 years.

---

Associated Press writers Tom Hays and Michael Weissenstein contributed to 
this report.
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Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

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