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February 11, 2005

Another lawyer joke

I once saw a wonderful cartoon in a collection many years ago. A lawyer is standing next to his client and is pointing a gun at the judge and bailiff, who have their hands raised. The client is saying to someone, "God knows you couldn't ask for more in a court-appointed lawyer."

I thought about this after reading that terrorist lawyer Lynne Stewart has now been convicted of "representing the destitute and the despised" (AP) and being a "a feisty defender of the poor and unpopular" (Reuters).

Here's an account of what she did. Please note that Ramsey Clark -- Ramsey Clark -- refused to do what Stewart later did.

Abdel-Rahman was sentenced to life in prison after his 1995 conviction for plotting to blow up New York City bridges and tunnels and conspiring to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

The sheik was considered so dangerous that he was held in solitary confinement in Rochester, Minn.

Still, he continued inciting violence against Americans from his jail cell.

In a fatwa, or religious edict, smuggled from prison, he said: "Destroy their embassies, attack their interests, sink their ships and shoot down their airplanes. Kill them in land, at sea and in the air."

Despite the hate-filled message, Abdel-Rahman and the Islamic Group — the Egyptian terrorist band of which he was the spiritual leader — agreed to support a cessation of terrorist activities in Egypt.

This did not sit well with bin Laden and Rifai Taha, an Egyptian militant tied to Abdel-Rahman. They had issued a fatwa calling for killing of Americans "wherever they could be found."

Taha subsequently was captured on phone taps talking to Ahmed Abdel Sattar, a paralegal for the sheik, and Mohamed Yousry, an interpreter. (Both were convicted at Stewart's trial and face lengthy prison terms.)

On the taps, Taha and Sattar discussed persuading Abdel-Rahman to end his support for the cease-fire.

During a September 1999 prison visit, Yousry urged the sheik to rescind his support and Abdel-Rahman dictated a statement to that effect.

Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsay Clark, who was also on the sheik's legal team, was present. But he refused to issue the statement, saying it violated prison restrictions.

Things changed when Stewart — who hadn't seen Abdel-Rahman in over a year — visited the sheik from May 16-17, 2000.

She carried into the prison a letter from Sattar, and in a conference room, she pulled it from the back of her legal pad and handed to Yousry.

That action was caught on videotape.

Stewart and Yousry talked about the guard outside the window of the interview room.

"If he finds out what this is . . ." Stewart said.

"We're in trouble," Yousry replied.

Yousry read the Sattar letter to Abdel-Rahman in Arabic. In it, Sattar urged the sheik to have Stewart release a statement opposing the cease-fire.

Stewart made noises to distract the guard. She also blurted out words to disguise the true intent of the conversation.

"I could win an Academy Award," she boasted.

The next day, Abdel-Rahman dictated a response to the Sattar letter.

"What is the use of the initiative?" he said. "The [Egyptian] government did not do anything other than increasing its own violence."

Four days before the visit, Stewart signed a statement agreeing that discussions would be limited to legal matters. But she barely spoke to Abdel-Rahman about legal issues — and she agreed to issue his statement.

The sheik's words sent shock waves through the Middle East and evoked displeasure from U.S. officials.
A tribute to the profession she is.