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The Lynne Stewart-Bin Laden Connection By: Julia Preston
New York Times | Friday, June 25, 2004

A co-defendant in the trial of Lynne F. Stewart, a lawyer accused of aiding terrorism, worked with an associate of Osama bin Laden to draft an October 2000 call to Muslims worldwide to fight Jews and "kill them wherever they are," the defendant's lawyer acknowledged yesterday in court.

The lawyer, Kenneth Paul, conceded in his opening remarks to the jury that his client, Ahmed Abdel Sattar, had helped write the call, or fatwa, because he was angry about surging clashes at the time between the Israeli government and the Palestinians.

Mr. Paul said the trial, being held in Federal District Court in Manhattan, would show that Mr. Sattar intended the message to be provocative but not "a terrorist statement." The lawyer said, "It was never his intent for anyone to be killed."

The fatwa was issued in the name of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, a blind Muslim cleric who is serving a life sentence in an American prison for inspiring a terrorist conspiracy against the United States.

Ms. Stewart, who was the sheik's defense lawyer, is accused of helping him convey instructions to his followers in a militant group in Egypt to launch terrorist attacks.

Federal prosecutors have given Mr. Sattar, a Postal Service employee from Staten Island, a central place in their case against Ms. Stewart. They charge that Mr. Sattar, 45, was a liaison to Mr. Abdel Rahman's most violent followers in Egypt and Afghanistan and through them to Al Qaeda.

They say Mr. Sattar laid plans with some of those followers to launch new terrorist attacks against the Egyptian government and sent messages through Ms. Stewart to Mr. Abdel Rahman to secure his approval from prison. The sheik is the spiritual leader of the Islamic Group, a militant Egyptian organization.

Ms. Stewart said in a recent interview that she was unaware of the communications between Mr. Sattar and militants overseas. Judge John G. Koeltl has denied her lawyers' requests to separate her case from Mr. Sattar's.

Ms. Stewart, 64, is charged with providing "material support" to terrorists and lying to the government. Mr. Sattar, who worked as a paralegal with Ms. Stewart, is accused of conspiring to commit terrorist murder and kidnapping.

A third defendant, Mohamed Yousry, 48, who was Ms. Stewart's Arabic translator during her prison visits with Mr. Abdel Rahman, faces charges of conspiracy and perjury.

Prosecutors said Mr. Sattar spoke by telephone during 2000 with a militant follower of the sheik, Rifa'i Ahmad Taha Musa. At the time, the prosecutors said, Mr. Taha was in Afghanistan at Al Qaeda training camps run by Mr. bin Laden. In September, an Arabic television network broadcast a videotape of Mr. Taha and Mr. bin Laden in a meeting together under a banner that called for support to free Mr. Abdel Rahman from prison.

After an escalation in the violence in Israel in the fall of 2000, Mr. Taha called Mr. Sattar on Oct. 3 to review the wording of the fatwa that Mr. Taha had drafted and proposed to release under Mr. Abdel Rahman's name, prosecutors said. After Mr. Sattar made some changes, the fatwa was posted on an Arabic-language Web site.

The government's first witness was Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the United States attorney for Chicago. He was a prosecutor in Mr. Abdel Rahman's 1995 terrorism trial and later administered severe prison restrictions that were imposed on the sheik.

Mr. Fitzgerald testified that Ms. Stewart signed a series of agreements that she would not, among other things, convey messages from the sheik to the news media after visiting him in jail. After Ms. Stewart released some comments by the sheik to a Reuters reporter in Cairo in June 2000, Mr. Fitzgerald said he considered starting criminal proceedings against her.

But he was told not to by the F.B.I., Mr. Fitzgerald said, because the bureau had placed a higher priority on a separate intelligence investigation of Mr. Sattar that it was pursuing.

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