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Ashcroft Threatens to Subpoena Journalist Notes in Stewart Case

On Nov. 22, the US government filed fresh charges against New York civil rights lawyer Lynne Stewart and two alleged co-conspirators–postal worker Ahmed Sattar and translator Mohammed Yousry. The new indictment comes after a federal judge in July dismissed charges that the three had conspired to provide material support to Egypt’s Islamic Group, which is designated a terrorist organization by the US State Department. US Judge John Koetl said the original charges were unconstitutionally vague and “reveal a lack of prosecutorial standards.”

Federal prosecutors initially accused Stewart of passing messages between her client, Sheikh Abdel Rahman, and Egyptian supporters from his prison cell, where he is serving a life term on charges of conspiring to blow up several New York landmarks. The new indictment charges that Stewart helped conceal from prison guards conversations in which Rahman told his translator and assisstant to call upon “Muslims everywhere” to free him from prison and “Kill them [Americans] anywhere you find them.” According to the new indictment, Stewart “pretended to be participating in the conversation with Abdel Rahman by making extraneous comments such as ‘chocolate’ and ‘heart attack.'” (Democracy Now, Nov. 20; AP, Nov. 19)

Just as the new indictment was brought, WW3 REPORT editor Bill Weinberg received a letter by Federal Express, dated Nov. 14, from James B. Comey, then US Attorney for Manhattan (and since promoted to deputy attorney general). The letter said that the US government is seeking Weinberg’s “voluntary cooperation” in turning over the complete text of an interview with Stewart which ran in the June 30, 2002 issue of WW3 REPORT, as well as testimony and “unpublished outtakes, notes, or tapes from the same interview…” The letter states: “If you do not comply voluntarily, this Office may seek approval from the Attorney General for the issuance of a subpoena to compel you to produce the materials and to testify.”

On the advice of his attorney, Weinberg is not cooperating with the request at this time, and does not wish to acknowledge whether any materials exist other than the published text. He has had his attorney reply to the US Attoney’s office with a letter to this effect.

The Lynne Stewart interview can be seen on-line at: http://ww3report.com/40.html#stewart