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Civil rights lawyer Lynne Stewart has lost a bid in Manhattan federal court to clear herself of criminal charges linked to her representation of a convicted terrorist. Finding no proof that Stewart had a non-prosecution agreement with the government, Southern District Judge John G. Koeltl kept in place allegations that she made false statements and conspired to defraud the United States in the course of representing convicted terrorist Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman. “There is no credible basis for Stewart’s contention that there was an enforceable agreement or promise not to prosecute her,” Koeltl wrote in United States v. Sattar, 02 Cr. 395, which was signed Monday and filed Wednesday. Stewart was indicted last year for helping the sheikh — who is serving life in prison for conspiring to blow up New York City landmarks and assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak — communicate with followers in the terrorist organization Islamic Group. She remains free on bail. Earlier this year, Koeltl dismissed the two most serious charges accusing Stewart of providing material support for terrorism. At an unusual September hearing, Stewart’s attorney, Michael Tigar, attempted to get the remaining charges dismissed, arguing that the government had strongly implied that she would not face criminal charges for her dealings on behalf of the sheikh. At that hearing, Patrick Fitzgerald, who was one of the Southern District’s lead terrorism prosecutors at the time and is now U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, strongly denied that an agreement not to prosecute Stewart was ever even implied. Rather, he said, he backed off the criminal probe of Stewart to avoid disclosing that her client, the sheikh, was being investigated by intelligence officers for promoting terrorism from behind bars. Stanley Cohen, a lawyer who represented Stewart in the summer of 2000, testified as well that he did not believe that he had obtained a formal agreement from the government not to charge Stewart. “None of Stewart’s arguments is persuasive,” Judge Koeltl wrote in Monday’s opinion. “Both Cohen and Fitzgerald testified unequivocally that no formal nonprosecution agreement was ever reached by them.” Tigar, who is a professor at American University’s Washington College of Law, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Michael Kulstad, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney James B. Comey, declined to comment. The crux of the case revolves around Special Administrative Measures imposed on the sheikh by the Bureau of Prisons, restricting his access to mail, the telephone and visitors, and barring him from talking to the press. In 2000, Fitzgerald learned that Stewart, who had agreed to the restrictions, had breached them by releasing a statement by the sheikh to the press and helping him disguise exchanges with an interpreter. The fraud charge accuses Stewart of trying to circumvent the restrictions. The remaining false-statement charge accuses her of lying when she promised the government she would not use her meetings with the sheikh to pass messages between him and third parties. The interpreter, Mohammed Yousry, and two others were also charged in the indictment. Fitzgerald warned Stewart to abide by the restrictions, saying that her actions could contribute to further terrorist attacks. After negotiations between Fitzgerald and Cohen, Stewart signed an affirmation agreeing to comply with the limits on the sheikh’s contact with the outside world. However, Cohen also testified that he deliberately never placed the specter of Stewart’s possible misconduct on the table because he did not want to raise it. The court found the testimony of Fitzgerald and Cohen to provide convincing evidence that no non-prosecution agreement was reached. Rejecting Stewart’s contention that the exchange of letters between Cohen and Fitzgerald amounted to such an agreement, Judge Koeltl wrote, “There could never have been an agreement on the nonprosecution of Stewart because that subject was never even the topic of conversation between Cohen and the Government.”

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