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NEW YORK — Defense lawyer Lynne Stewart scored a victory Tuesday when a federal judge dismissed charges that she provided material support to a terrorist group. Southern District Judge John Koeltl agreed with defense lawyers that the federal statute forbidding the provision of material support or resources to a designated terrorist group, 18. U.S.C. � 2339B, was unconstitutionally vague as applied to Stewart and her co-defendants. The judge in United States v. Sattar, 02 Cr. 395, also dismissed a conspiracy count based on that same law, leaving Stewart facing the two least-serious charges leveled against her in an indictment issued last year: making false statements and conspiring to defraud the government. Stewart and three others were charged with helping convicted terrorist conspirator Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman maintain contact with the outlaw terror organization Islamic Group from behind the bars of a federal prison. Stewart had represented Sheikh Abdel Rahman at his 1995 trial for seditious conspiracy to commit terror attacks in New York City and continued to visit him after he was incarcerated. The indictment accused her and co-defendants Ahmed Abdel Sattar, Yassir Al-Sirri and Mohammed Yousry with staffing a “communications pipeline” between the sheikh and the Islamic Group, an organization that had claimed credit for the massacre of 62 people at an archeological site in Luxor, Egypt, in 1997. The Islamic Group had a tentative cease-fire with the Egyptian government in which it was refraining from terrorist attacks, and Stewart and her co-defendants were accused of communicating Sheikh Abdel Rahman’s withdrawal of support for the truce. On the material support for terrorism, Stewart was accused of providing “communications equipment” and “personnel” to the Islamic Group in violation of � 2339B. However, Stewart’s lawyer Michael Tigar and Kenneth Paul, the lawyer for Sattar, argued that the law criminalized innocent behavior. “The defendants are correct and by criminalizing the mere use of phones and other means of communication the statute provides neither notice nor standards for its application such that it is unconstitutionally vague as applied,” Judge Koeltl said. “A criminal defendant simply could not be expected to know that the conduct alleged was prohibited by the statute.” Tigar also argued that it put Stewart in an untenable position as a lawyer for Sheikh Abdel Rahman, an opinion Judge Koeltl appeared to embrace. “The government accuses Stewart of providing personnel, including herself, to [the Islamic Group],” Judge Koeltl said. “In so doing, however, the government fails to explain how a lawyer, acting as an agent of her client, an alleged leader of an FTO [foreign terrorist organization], could avoid being subject to the criminal prosecution as a ‘quasi-employee’ allegedly covered by the statute.” Mark Hamblett is a reporter with The New York Law Journal , a Recorder affiliate.

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