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United States v. Ahmed Abdel Sattar, et al. (amicus)

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Synopsis

United States v. Ahmed Abdel Sattar, et al. is a case in which Lynne Stewart, a criminal defense attorney who represented Sheikh Abdel Rahman, was indicted on April 9, 2002, for providing "material support" to a terrorist organization. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed an amicus brief in her support.

Description

Shock waves rippled through the criminal defense bar when Lynne Stewart, a prominent criminal defense attorney in New York City, was indicted on April 9, 2002, for the crime of providing "material support" to a terrorist organization. The government's indictment was based in large measure on a public statement that Ms. Stewart allegedly made in the course of representing the imprisoned Sheikh Abdel Rahman following his conviction for terrorist crimes in 1995. Specifically, the government alleged that Ms. Stewart reported at a June 2000 press conference that Sheikh Rahman, who is a spiritual leader of the Egyptian Islamic Group (IG), a designated foreign terrorist organization, was withdrawing his support for a ceasefire between the IG and Egypt.

CCR filed an amicus brief supporting Ms. Stewart's motion to dismiss the indictment, arguing that the material support counts criminalized speech protected by the First Amendment. In July 2003, Judge John Koeltl of the Southern District of New York adopted CCR’s reasoning and dismissed the material support counts. CCR saw this case as an attack on attorneys who defend controversial figures and an attempt to deprive these clients of the zealous representation to which they are entitled.

Judge Koetl's decision dismisses the counts against Ms. Stewart for providing material support in the form of “personnel” and “communications,” but the case is far from over. On November 19, 2003, the government issued a superseding indictment charging her with other crimes relating to her representation of Sheikh Rahman. She was sentenced to two years in jail, but is now free on bail.