Skip to comments.Tracing Militants on a Staten Island Phone [sed 's/Militants/Terrorists/g', Lynne Stewart trial]
Posted on 10/02/2004 1:21:19 PM PDT by Mike Fieschko
For the last three months, the defendant who has drawn the most attention in a terror trial under way in Manhattan federal court is Lynne F. Stewart, who made a name as a defense lawyer for suspects accused of terrorism. But as the prosecutors' case has unfolded, most of the evidence about the international conspiracy they hope to prove has centered on a defendant who sits silently beside her, Ahmed Abdel Sattar.
A Staten Island postal worker and a Muslim, Mr. Sattar served as a paralegal aide for Ms. Stewart in the 1995 trial of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the elderly blind Islamic cleric who is serving a life sentence in a United States prison for plotting terrorist attacks in New York.
In the years after that trial, the evidence reveals, Mr. Sattar made hundreds of phone calls from his cramped apartment to fundamentalist followers of the sheik across the globe, from Britain to Egypt to Afghanistan. Through conference calls he arranged, Mr. Sattar became a gatekeeper for communications between far-flung Islamic militants, eventually joining their debates about using violence.
Mr. Sattar faces the most serious charges in this trial, including one count of conspiracy to kill and kidnap people in a foreign country, which carries a maximum life sentence. Kenneth A. Paul, one of his lawyers, said in an opening statement on June 23 that Mr. Sattar was "politically frustrated" but never intended to plan or incite violence.
For her part, Ms. Stewart is accused of helping Mr. Abdel Rahman communicate a call to war against Egypt's government from a federal prison cell where he was supposed to be incommunicado. She faces charges that carry a maximum of 10 years, as does a third defendant, Mohamed Yousry, a translator of Arabic.
Along with Ms. Stewart, Mr. Sattar was one of a handful of people permitted to communicate directly with the sheik in prison. But the prosecutors' evidence has indicated that he went a step further. After he was eagerly sought out by followers of the sheik in the Gamaa Islamiya - the Islamic Group, a militant organization in Egypt - he became a participant in their deliberations about war and peace.
Records of Mr. Sattar's phone calls, which were wiretapped, show that his calling quickened in the fall of 2000, when the group's leaders were embroiled in a fierce dispute over whether to continue a cease-fire in their long war against the Egyptian government or return to terror attacks. Although Mr. Sattar was not a member of the group, he favored - at least in statements in the government's transcripts - those who wanted to abandon the truce.
In a moment of rage over political clashes in Israel, Mr. Sattar helped an Islamic Group leader who was in Afghanistan compose a religious edict and release it under the sheik's name without asking the sheik. It summoned young Muslims to fight Jews "by all possible means of jihad, either by killing them as individuals or by targeting their interests and their advocates, as much as they can."
Mr. Sattar's lawyers declined to comment in detail before he testifies in his own defense in the next few weeks. But they said they would fill in the context of his phone calls to show that he was trying to help men he regarded as Muslim brothers, not to participate in a plan for violence. "It clearly was never his intent for anyone to be killed," Mr. Paul said.
In court, Mr. Sattar is being confronted with his own words. The prosecutors' evidence consists overwhelmingly of transcripts of wiretap recordings that were among some 90,000 intercepted conversations on his home phone made between March 1995 and March 2002, as part of a federal foreign intelligence investigation.
Now the man who talked so much sits silent day after day, watching the prosecutors re-enact his phone calls, reading out English transcripts of the Arabic dialogue. With the jury as their audience, the prosecutors take turns reading, in flat voices, the words of Mr. Sattar, Ms. Stewart, the sheik and others.
This is interesting.
Love the headline. Stream editor humor just cracks me up.