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Calling the indictment of Lynne Stewart for supporting terrorism an unprecedented attack on the attorney-client privilege, members of the defense bar are trying to mobilize support for the embattled criminal lawyer. On Thursday night at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, the newest member of the Stewart defense team, Michael Tigar, told more than 200 lawyers, students and academics that Stewart, who is accused of helping imprisoned Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman communicate with his terrorist followers, is the latest victim in a government assault on civil liberties. Invoking Clarence Darrow, John Adams and two lawyers who were disbarred by a high-handed colonial governor for representing John Peter Zenger, a printer accused of sedition, Tigar said Stewart is also a perfect example of government hostility to the independence of the defense bar. “In the name of anti-terrorism, this government wants to dismantle basic guarantees,” Tigar said. The event, co-sponsored by the National Lawyers Guild, was less a panel discussion and more of a call to arms, as Cardozo Professor Ellen Yaroshefsky and defense lawyers Robert Anello and Gerald Lefcourt blistered the Bush administration and Attorney General John Ashcroft for a new measure on warrantless monitoring of attorney-client communications — and what they characterized as a political indictment of Stewart by Southern District U.S. Attorney James B. Comey. Dana Biberman, president of the Lawyer’s Guild New York City Chapter, said that warrantless monitoring, announced by Ashcroft last fall and now being used against the sheik, makes effective assistance of counsel impossible. Biberman is heading the newly launched Committee to Defend Lynne Stewart, soliciting donations to help support the efforts of Tigar and co-counsel Susan V. Tipograph. The committee plans to hold a series of fund-raisers and public events to raise awareness about what Biberman said was the threat to civil liberties implicit in the Stewart indictment. Yaroshefsky, director of Cardozo’s Jacobs Burns Ethics Center, said she is helping to coordinate legal efforts in support of the defense, including the filing of amicus briefs on several issues raised by the indictment and the regulations on attorney-inmate monitoring. Those issues, she said Thursday night, include “the attorney-client privilege, the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments and the separation of powers.” The lawyers on Thursday urged a receptive audience to make their displeasure known and support Stewart in what promises to be a politically charged trial in the Southern District of New York. Comey responded Friday. “With a trial pending and few facts disclosed so far, it is grossly premature for anyone to draw conclusions about the case or the government’s conduct,” Comey said. “The government will present its evidence in the courtroom at trial. After that, analysis and roundtable discussions will be fully informed.” Stewart spoke briefly to the audience Thursday, thanking them for attending. She was given a loud round of applause and assured the audience she was in “good hands” with her defense team. Tigar, a professor at American University, Washington College of Law and longtime defender of controversial figures, including Terry Nichols in the Oklahoma City bombing case, joined Tipograph by filing an initial appearance last week. He said the defense of Stewart will be time-consuming and costly. “I have to be candid about this: I have seen the future and it is expensive,” he said. “We are going to have over 200,000 pages of discovery here.” Tipograph, a solo practitioner, has long defended radical causes. Among her former clients is Patricia Gros, one of the Ohio Seven charged in connection with a series of bombings in the New York City area. GOVERNMENT’S ALLEGATIONS Stewart had defended Sheik Abdel-Rahman at his 1995 trial for seditious conspiracy in connection with a plot to bomb several landmarks and major pieces of New York City’s infrastructure. Her indictment in April accused her of providing material support for terrorism, two counts of conspiracy and making false statements. Prosecutors for Comey charge that Stewart helped the sheik, the spiritual leader of the terror organization called Islamic Group, communicate with his followers from a federal facility in Rochester, Minn. The indictment alleges that Stewart violated Special Administrative Measures (SAMS) imposed by the Bureau of Prisons, which included a gag order on the sheik. Stewart was informed by terrorism prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, now U.S. Attorney in Chicago, that she was in violation of the SAMS. She promised not to do it again, but then broke that promise by acting as a conduit between the sheik and the outside world, the government alleges. Stewart also allegedly violated the SAMS by holding a press conference and falsely charging that prison officials were denying the sheik medication. And the indictment charges that Stewart allowed interpreter Mohammed Yousry and the sheik to pass messages in Arabic while she covered the exchange by chattering about inconsequential matters in English. Among the messages Stewart is accused of helping the sheik pass to his followers in Islamic Group was that the organization should no longer observe a ceasefire on terrorist acts. Also charged along with Stewart and Yousry was Ahmed Abdel Sattar, who prosecutors say was a “vital link” between the sheik and the membership of the Egyptian-based Islamic Group, an organization that claimed responsibility for the 1997 massacre of more than 58 foreign tourists at an archeological site in Luxor, Egypt. The fourth person charged in the case is Yassir Al-Sirri, now in custody in London. Al-Sirri and Sattar are also accused of inciting violence for circulating a message from the sheik two years ago that called for the “bloodshed of Israelis everywhere.” OFFICE SEARCHED Stewart’s offices on lower Broadway, which she shares with other attorneys, were searched on April 9 by federal agents and a prosecutor assigned to a “privilege team,” which reviews seized documents and computer files to ensure that matters implicating the attorney-client privilege and attorney work-product are insulated from prosecutors and agents handling the underlying case. But arguing that the firewall separating the privilege team from the prosecution team is insufficient, Tipograph has asked Southern District Judge John Koeltl to appoint a special master to take control of the seized files and scour them for privileged materials. Koeltl will also be forced to decide another issue critical to both sides — and a central topic at Thursday’s discussion — the demand of Sattar’s lawyer, Kenneth Paul, that the government give a guarantee that his conversations with his client at the Metropolitan Correctional Center are not being monitored. Tipograph, as well as the lawyer for Yousry, have also said that absent a guarantee that Sattar is not being taped, they will refuse to meet with Paul for co-defendant conferences. In the wake of the indictment, Ashcroft said that going forward, Sheik Abdel-Rahman would be the first inmate to be monitored under the new regulations. Anello, chairman of the Committee on Professional Responsibility of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, criticized the attorney-client monitoring rule Thursday, saying it “turns the Bill of Rights on its head.” Anello, an attorney with New York-based Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason & Silberberg, said the “purpose of the rule, when you strip it down, is to chill the attorney-client privilege.” Lefcourt called the Stewart indictment the latest “pivotal moment” in a long history of attacks on the privilege in the name of crime-fighting and national security. He also praised defense attorney Frederick Cohn, who represented one of the men convicted last year in the bombing of U.S. Embassies in Africa, for launching a challenge to the monitoring regulations in Washington, D.C.

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