X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
NEW YORK � For nine days of often dramatic testimony, a federal jury in the Southern District of Manhattan heard Lynne Stewart defend her representation of convicted terrorist Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and attempt to refute charges that she intentionally furthered the aims of his followers in the Islamic Group. That testimony came to a close last week as Stewart’s lawyer, Michael Tigar, tried one more time to drive home the point that Stewart was merely fulfilling her obligation to zealously represent her client � even when she outraged federal officials by releasing a statement by the sheik withdrawing his support for the Islamic Group’s self-proclaimed cease-fire on attacks against, and criticism of, the government of Egypt. Throughout her time on the witness stand, Stewart largely kept her composure, becoming emotional on only one occasion. Her final day of cross-examination was similar to previous days. Stewart appeared largely unruffled and answered the prosecutor’s questions directly, although she made a point of interjecting comments to score points along the way. Overall, Stewart was a strong witness who came across as fairly direct and open, despite the prosecution’s continued implication that she was being disingenuous and stretching her interpretation of the law to cover damaging facts. Stewart is accused of intentionally violating a muzzle placed on the sheik by the former Southern District lead terrorism prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, when she issued, in the sheik’s name, the press release on the cease-fire in June 2000. Her announcement and several other actions she took during visits to the sheik at a Rochester, Minn., prison in 2000 and 2001 allegedly violated attorney affirmations she signed promising to abide by the prison restrictions known as special administrative measures (SAMs). For six days of cross-examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Dember hammered Stewart about her admission that she was well aware the sheik had espoused violence against the United States and Israel � and that the Islamic Group, responsible for the 1997 massacre of 58 tourists at an archeological site in Luxor, Egypt, had expanded its violent agenda beyond the borders of Egypt. Stewart’s own views endorsing violence as a part of a “people’s revolution,” albeit at some time in the future, were also thoroughly explored by Dember, who asked Stewart about remarks she had made to the news media on the necessity of attacking the evils of the capitalist system in America. On Nov. 10, Dember bore down on Stewart as to her continued representation of the sheik well after any chance for a successful appeal from his 1995 conviction for seditious conspiracy against the United States had been exhausted. PROSECUTOR’S POSITION Dember’s line of attack was that the reasons offered by Stewart for continuing to visit the Sheik in prison were just shallow pretexts � that she had hoped for possible negotiations on an exchange that might return her client to Egypt and that she was visiting him to discuss the possibility of a federal lawsuit over both his prison conditions and the imposition of the special administrative measures. Stewart conceded from the witness stand last week that she never took formal action to file a prison conditions lawsuit on the sheik’s behalf. Dember’s argument: The real reason Stewart continued to visit the sheik reflected the same reason Fitzgerald drafted and imposed the SAMs � to make real the fear that a simple message from the sheik to his spiritual followers in the Islamic Group was all that was needed to ignite a new wave of violence. Stewart, Dember contended, was a willing conduit for the sheik, using her position as a lawyer as a smoke screen for illegal activities committed by people whose agenda she shared. Again and again, Dember in his questions criticized Stewart’s contention that the SAMs left a “bubble” under which she could legally represent her client by passing him messages and information from Egypt and by speaking for him outside the prison walls. Dember charged that Stewart knew she was violating the SAMs and that her knowledge was revealed when she was confronted by Fitzgerald in a phone call and did not respond to his accusations except to say that her lawyer would contact the prosecutor. That lawyer was Stanley Cohen, who represented Stewart in negotiations with Fitzgerald that ultimately led to Stewart’s signing another attorney affirmation promising to abide by the SAMs as a condition for renewed visits with the sheik in 2001. Dember won one argument Nov. 9 before Judge John Koeltl. The ruling allows Dember to mention to the jury that Stewart did not deny violating the SAMs in her conversation with Fitzgerald. Tigar won another round, defeating a prosecution claim that Stewart had waived her own attorney-client privilege on conversations she had with Cohen when she testified at her trial about her talks with him on the negotiations. The privilege was further waived, the government argued, when Cohen testified at a pretrial hearing about representing Stewart in her talks with Fitzgerald. Judge Koeltl ruled that her privilege had not been waived on either occasion. TIGAR’S REDIRECT When Tigar took the podium to rehabilitate his client on redirect examination, the veteran defense attorney went right to the heart of the matter. “Do you personally support Islamic fundamentalism?” he asked. “Personally? No, I do not,” Stewart responded. “Do you support the right of Israel to exist?” he asked. “Yes, I believe it has a right to exist,” Stewart said. “But I also believe Palestine has a right to exist and something must be worked out so they can live peaceably and compatibly.” Later, Tigar asked her if she ever violated “any promise you made in your affirmation,” and, “Do you believe you violated the language in the SAMs?” Stewart’s answer was no. “As I explained, I was operating under the ethical rules” that lawyers “are autonomous” and that the rules “are not in conflict with the SAMs.” Tigar then turned to ethical rules and considerations that he offered to illustrate Stewart’s situation in relation to the sheik. One ethical consideration in the American Bar Association’s Model Code of Professional Responsibility, deals with representing unpopular clients, a practice that Stewart has made a career of. “History is replete with instances of distinguished and sacrificial services by lawyers who have represented unpopular clients and causes,” Tigar read from Ethical Consideration 2-27. “Regardless of his personal feelings, a lawyer should not decline representation because a client or a cause is unpopular or community reaction is adverse.” Others concerned the obligation to zealously represent clients, the need for lawyers to test the boundaries of the law where vague legislation or conflicting judicial opinions make those boundaries unclear, and how a lawyer’s representation of a client with controversial views does not amount to an endorsement of them. “Were you guided by those principles?” he asked Stewart. “Yes,” she said. “I was.” The defense case of co-defendant Mohamed Yousry, Stewart’s interpreter, began Nov. 10 with the testimony of another of the sheik’s lawyers, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark. Yousry’s case will be followed by that of a third co-defendant, Ahmed Sattar. Mark Hamblett is a staff writer for the New York Law Journal , an ALM publication.

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.