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ALBANY, N.Y. — Slightly ahead of the remnants of Hurricane Isabel, Lynne Stewart breezed through town late last week on a whirlwind tour of fund raising and public relations. The controversial attorney accused of aiding terrorism met with sympathizers, raised money for her cause, appeared on local radio and television talk shows, granted newspaper interviews, partook in a panel discussion at Albany Law School on post-Sept. 11 defense lawyering and still found time to tour New York’s historic State Capitol and attend a reception at the home of Albany civil rights lawyer Mark Mishler. But mostly the leftist lawyer focused on a national security obsession she says is downright un-American, raising questions about the erosion of the attorney-client privilege and the constitutional mandate of attorneys to zealously advocate for even the most despised defendants. “It is not the planes that hit the World Trade Center, it’s the ripping up of the foundations of this country — the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, [the principles] that have kept us strong and functional,” Stewart said Friday, disregarding what she says would be her advice if she were the attorney in this case rather than the client: to embrace the right to remain silent. “I want people to know that this is an attack on the defense function. This is not about foreign terrorism. This is about how we defend people in the United States.” Stewart found herself in the center of the storm last year when the U.S. Department of Justice accused her of helping her imprisoned client, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, a blind Egyptian cleric convicted of seditious conspiracy in connection with a plot to blow up U.S. landmarks, advance his terrorist agenda by relaying messages to his associates in Egypt. Although the most serious charges were dismissed by Southern District Judge John Koeltl, Stewart remains under indictment for conspiracy to defraud the United States and making false statements. The indictment alleges that she frustrated national security interests by serving as the sheik’s conduit, in part by reading a public statement in which he urged his colleagues in the Islamic Group to abandon a cease-fire with the government of Egypt. It also alleges that she violated prison security rules after she had promised to abide by special restrictions for terrorist suspects. Stewart’s arrest on the morning of April 9, 2002, has transformed her from an attorney who represents terrorists and revolutionaries to one who defends radical lawyering and unpopular advocacy. She now travels the country and raises money for the movement. She is amused that she has never once been pulled aside by airport security for special scrutiny even though she is “under indictment for terrorism.” (Her attorney, Michael Tigar of Washington, D.C., is court-appointed and publicly compensated). Her Web site (www.lynnestewart.org) peddles merchandise such as Lynne Stewart T-shirts and socialist literature. In an interview in the Albany, N.Y., bureau of The New York Law Journal, a Recorder affiliate, Stewart spoke openly about the case against her, her political convictions and about the personal and professional perils and pitfalls of celebrity-slash-notoriety. She acknowledged that her politics are well left-of-center, admitted that she likes and admires some of the terrorists she has represented and befriended, and even suggested that the World Trade Center attacks were on some level justifiable. And she confided that to some extent she likes the attention Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Justice Department have focused on her, a plump, silver-haired grandmother who is almost 64 (her birthday is Oct. 8). “You can’t not enjoy having young people come up to you and say, ‘You’re my hero. You are so brave and so wonderful.’ It makes everything worthwhile,” Stewart said. “But I could live without it.” ‘RADICAL’ LAWYER Lynne Feltham Stewart has long been on the fringes of even the left-wing of the bar. She describes herself as a “political” or “radical” lawyer, for whom defense of the client sometimes means defense of the client’s cause. “I would say that in the ’60s and ’70s, I would have characterized myself as a Maoist,” she said. “I would say at this point I am slightly modified. I still believe socialism is preferable to capitalism. “In her mind, the legitimate means to social ends can entail violence, and offers that she is “not in the tradition of Martin Luther King.” A better role model, she said, is Nelson Mandela. “I think when a group or country or a people are oppressed they have a right to fight back, they have the right to use self-defense, and that may be violence, which I think is understandable and should be applauded when the purpose is to free themselves from a terrible oppression,” Stewart said. “I am not nonviolent as such. On the other hand, I wouldn’t say I am violent. � It has to be in the construct of a movement, with grassroots support.” Still, Stewart insisted she is well aware of the line separating appropriate legal advocacy from criminal conspiracy, and steadfastly maintains she did not breach that boundary with Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman. The federal government has a different view, which it intends to present fully if the case goes to trial as scheduled Jan. 12. “I have defended lawyers who became part of the gang and tipped off guys that there was going to be a search warrant or warned them to turn off their beepers or otherwise became part of the criminal enterprise,” Stewart said. “It never occurred to me to think of myself as part of [the sheik]. This was a political prisoner in my view. His motivations, if proven, were political. They certainly weren’t monetary or because he was a depraved person.” Asked specifically about the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Stewart hesitates and then responds: “Yes, I do think there was some justification. � I think there are large questions left as to why so much of the world hates us. � I think the United States has done many things to incur this type of wrath. I don’t believe in the death of civilians, but on the other hand I can say I am not unaware, unshaken by the deep feelings of people around the world who see the U.S. as the author of their woes, politically and economically.” Stewart, a Brooklyn native who grew up in Bellrose, Queens, was in her mid-30s when she graduated from Rutgers University School of Law and began a career of defending cop killers, revolutionaries and terrorists of various stripes. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Ralph Poynter, a former teacher and amateur boxer who spent six months at Rikers Island for assaulting a police officer. Stewart and her son, Geoffrey, had a vigorous practice in a nondescript walk-up at 351 Broadway, 10 blocks from the World Trade Center, but since the indictment, business has fallen off. Some clients have been scared away, and some attorneys are keeping their distance, she said. “He [Geoffrey Stewart] has a healthy practice,” she said. “I still have old clients and referrals from them, so we stay afloat. But it is not like big cases are walking through the door. There is a sense of, ‘If I’m in trouble with the government, why would I want a lawyer who is in trouble with the government?’” Stewart said she has received strong support from much of the criminal defense bar and the National Lawyers Guild. But she added with a bit of disappointment that the “white shoe” attorneys turned their backs, and support from the American Civil Liberties Union “has been spotty.” City University of New York Law Dean Kristin Glenn, a longtime friend, barred her from speaking to the spring graduating class. Other acquaintances shun her. But some attorneys she barely knows go out of their way to offer encouragement. “I think that when the attorney general goes around talking about making lists of judges who are too lenient [and] U.S. attorneys who don’t prosecute for the maximum charge or bring death penalty cases, it creates an atmosphere of Kafka,” she said. “I think the judges are concerned. They don’t want to be on a list. They don’t want to be taken up on appeal de novo.” Among her supporters is Manhattan defense attorney Ronald Kuby, who said that even when his late partner William Kunstler was at his height of unpopularity and controversy, the government responded with its contempt powers, and “there was no attempt by prosecutors to attack his practice.” He said the prosecution of Stewart is “virtually unprecedented in the modern era,” and he chastised colleagues who treat her like a pariah. “Lynne’s courage stands in contrast to the cowardice of the profession,” Kuby said. “As many civil rights lawyers get older � we get old, we get fat, we have mortgages and we make compromises � Lynne never did that. � “You expect your colleagues and your comrades to stand with you, as you’ve always stood by them, and to see them make accommodations is profoundly unsettling.” EVIDENTIARY HEARING On Monday, Judge Koeltl is slated to hold an evidentiary hearing on the allegation that Stewart broke her promise to abide by the Special Administrative Measures applicable to the sheik. A banner on her Web site encourages supporters: “LET’S FILL THE COURTROOM!!” Stewart said that given the chance to do it over, she would probably represent the sheik in much the same manner. In retrospect, though, she said she was “probably a little witless” not to have seen the danger and not to have realized that the government would be paying closer attention to her relationships with the sheik when there was a so-called “war on terrorism” going on, and her client was a “convicted international Muslin terrorist.” Yet, she said, it is a frightening prospect if she and other defense attorneys need to worry that the government may be peeking over their shoulder. “It inhibits lawyers from having the type of attorney-client conference and information sharing that once would have been completely open,” Stewart said. “It has cast a pall on the defense function.” John Caher is the Albany, N.Y., bureau chief for The New York Law Journal , a Recorder affiliate. Reporter Thomas Adcock contributed to this report.

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