A co-defendant in the trial of Lynne F. Stewart, a lawyer accused of aiding terrorists, testified yesterday that for several years it was “normal procedure” for him to send letters containing messages from Egyptian militants to a convicted terrorist client of Ms. Stewart’s in prison.
The defendant, Ahmed Abdel Sattar, is facing the most serious charges in the federal trial in Manhattan, including one count of conspiracy to kill and kidnap in a foreign country, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Mr. Abdel Sattar is accused of secretly coordinating communications between violent Islamic fundamentalists in Egypt and their spiritual leader, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, a client of Ms. Stewart’s who is serving a life sentence for a failed terrorist plot in New York.
Mr. Sattar, taking the stand in his own defense, said that he routinely and openly wrote letters that were carried to the sheik by Ms. Stewart and other lawyers on the defense team whenever they visited their client in prison, even after the government imposed limits [upon] Mr. Abdel Rahman’s communications in 1997.
In late 1998, Mr. Sattar said, some of the sheik’s best-known militant followers began to call him from overseas on his home telephone, and he included messages from them in his letters to the sheik.
Under questioning by one of his lawyers, Barry M. Fallick, Mr. Sattar said that his letters, and the frequent interviews he gave the press about the sheik’s prison conditions, were intended by the lawyers to fight the government’s efforts to render the sheik incommunicado. “He’s a human being before he’s a criminal,” Mr. Sattar said. “This is what we decided to remind the world.”
Great. But was this human being continuing to plot to murder other human beings? Or is that his human right also?