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In closing arguments last week, the attorney for indicted New York criminal defense lawyer Lynne Stewart said the government’s case against the radical defense attorney was part of a “cynical effort” to destroy Stewart’s reputation and career. Michael Tigar told a Manhattan jury during a closing argument that stretched over two days from Jan. 5 to Jan. 6 that six months of evidence in the trial had amounted to no more than government “hype” aimed at Stewart, who is accused of providing material support to a terror group. Tigar called Stewart a “courageous, brash, and feisty” woman wrongly accused of joining an ill-defined conspiracy, adding that the government had presented no proof Stewart knew of “a conspiracy to use weapons in a Middle Eastern country, in Egypt, or wherever.” Tigar will have one more opportunity to address the jury this week as he seeks to defeat charges that Stewart conspired with co-defendants Ahmed Abdel Sattar and interpreter Mohamed Yousry to violate prison restrictions and pass messages to and from imprisoned Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman in order to aid the Islamic Group, which had been designated by the U.S. State Department as a foreign terrorist organization. This conspiracy, prosecutors allege, also aided a wider conspiracy by Sattar and others to kidnap and kill persons in a foreign country. The power of the sheik, and his authority over the Islamic Group, has been sharply disputed at the trial. Prosecutors have tried to show that the sheik’s history of violent statements against the United States and his 1995 conviction for seditious conspiracy in connection with a plot to bomb New York City landmarks made him an ongoing threat, even as he served a life sentence in federal prison. For this reason, the government had imposed Special Administrative Measures, or SAMs, limiting the sheik’s communications with the outside world and limiting prison visits by Stewart and fellow lawyers Ramsey Clark and Abdeen Jabara, who had represented the sheik at his 1995 trial, to strictly legal consultations. During his closing argument, prosecutor Andrew Dember told the jury that Stewart violated two promises to abide by the SAMs when, among other things, she issued a press release in which the sheik purportedly called for the end of a cease-fire between the Islamic Group and the Egyptian government. Dember said it was bad enough that Stewart aided the Islamic Group by passing on the words of the sheik in violation of prison restrictions � but it was worse because she helped edit the statement to make it more confrontational. It is the government’s theory that Stewart replaced the other attorneys as the lawyer to visit the sheik in prison in 2000 because her co-conspirators believed she was willing to do what Clark and Jabarra were not � act as a conduit to the Islamic Group at a time when it was divided over whether to abandon the cease-fire and go on the attack. But Tigar said last week that Stewart could not be held responsible for violent statements the sheik made about the United States in the past � and her only option was to influence his behavior going forward. Tigar became emotional when he defended his client’s admittedly radical political views, saying they “had nothing to do with whether or not a person can be, or is, an effective, honorable, decent lawyer.” Referring to his own life, worldview, and role as an attorney, Tigar choked up as he said, “I want to be judged by the content of my character � not by my politics � and Lynne Stewart does too.” QUESTIONS OF INFLUENCE The chief allegation against Stewart is that she aided the violent conspiracy by broadcasting a statement from the sheik in 2000 in which he allegedly withdrew his support for a cease-fire in his group’s conflict with the Egyptian government and others. The government alleges that the true character of co-defendant Sattar was revealed when he and an Islamic Group military leader named Taha followed Stewart’s press release on the cease-fire by issuing a religious edict in the sheik’s name, calling for attacks on Jews. The edict, or fatwa, led the government to charge Sattar with soliciting crimes of violence. Last week, Tigar followed up on one argument pressed by Sattar’s attorney, Kenneth Paul, that the sheik’s announcement on the cease-fire only questioned its effectiveness and called for further discussions by members of the Islamic Group. Tigar also said there was real debate over the actual influence of the sheik and whether he was, in the words of Dember, the “ultimate arbiter” of disputes within the group. Tigar said the initial declaration of the cease-fire in 1997 � a declaration supported by the sheik from prison in a press release issued by attorney Ramsey Clark � came three months before the savage murder of 58 tourists and four Egyptians at an archeological site in Luxor, Egypt. The government alleges the attack was masterminded by Taha, who later surfaced in Afghanistan and was pictured in a videotape with Osama bin Laden and one of the sheik’s sons calling for the release of the sheik. Tigar sought to portray Taha as the most militant of Islamic Group members, a person whose views on the cease-fire were rejected by other leading members of the group. He was careful to distinguish Stewart’s client from co-defendant Sattar, who had a series of phone conversations with Taha recorded by the government and played for the jury. “Easy assumptions about so-called guilt by association don’t belong here,” Tigar said as he began walking the jury through the elements of the crimes charged in the indictment. Stewart is also accused of conspiring to defraud the government and making false statements. Stewart was never a party to those conversations between Sattar, Taha, and others, Tigar said. He reminded the jury that she did not speak Arabic and warned against “carelessly confusing” the agendas of different players in the trial. Tigar also argued that Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, whom the government claimed could trigger a wave of violence with a single word, never issued a call for the resumption of attacks against the Egyptian government. Addressing what he said was the “heart” of the matter in the trial, Tigar said the sheik never authorized Stewart to light the fuse by calling for his followers in the Islamic Group to resume assaults in Egypt. Instead, Tigar told the jury, the sheik merely said he doubted the effectiveness of a cease-fire declared by the Islamic Group because the Egyptian government was still repressing dissent. Assuming the voice of the blind sheik, Tigar said: “I will withdraw my support, but after all, it’s up to you.” “That’s the statement and you saw it over and over again,” Tigar told the jury. ARGUING FOR SATTAR Tigar’s closing followed an emotional summation by attorney Kenneth Paul on behalf of co-defendant Sattar. Paul said Sattar, a Staten Island postal worker, did not belong to the Islamic Group and was working only for political change in Egypt in his role as a “middle man” between the sheik and his followers. He claimed Sattar did not push for a renunciation of the cease-fire, but instead loyally presented the sheik with a wide range of views within the Islamic Group about its effectiveness. That was sharply at odds with prosecutor Dember’s closing argument. Paul said the recorded phone calls between Sattar, Taha, and others showed only that Sattar was “used” by members of the Islamic Group. His client, he insisted, was never a threat to anyone. Paul played a tape of Sattar recorded by the government. The defendant was talking on the phone with a co-worker one week after the destruction of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. The tape, he argued, revealed a tearful Sattar lamenting the loss of life, insisting that the attacks on Sept. 11 were “not an act of Islam.” Upon hearing Sattar’s voice on the tape, Paul said, members of the jury should ask themselves: “Is he the kind of person who revels in violence?” Mark Hamblett is a staff writer for the New York Law Journal , the ALM publication where versions of this article first appeared.

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