A co-defendant in the trial of Lynne F. Stewart, a lawyer accused of conspiring with Islamic terrorists, admitted yesterday that he had inspired and edited a Muslim edict, or fatwa, issued in October 2000 that called for "killing the Jews wherever they are found."
The defendant, Ahmed Abdel Sattar, testified that he had urged a fugitive Egyptian Islamic militant, Rifai Taha, to write the text of the fatwa in a telephone call to Afghanistan, where Mr. Taha was living in exile. Mr. Sattar said he changed a few words of Mr. Taha's draft and then arranged for it to be posted on the Internet and released to the news media under the name of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, a client of Ms. Stewart's who is serving a life sentence in an American federal prison for a failed bombing plot in
Mr. Abdel Rahman did not learn of the fatwa attributed to him until weeks later, evidence presented earlier in the trial, in
Mr. Sattar, who was a paralegal assisting Ms. Stewart during the sheik's 1995 trial, testified yesterday that he was moved to issue the message out of fury he felt upon looking at television news reports about the violence that erupted in
"My intent was just to scream out loud, to cry," Mr. Sattar said, growing subdued and visibly pale on the stand. He said he had been especially angry after seeing news images of a young Palestinian boy who was shot and killed by Israeli troops on a street while his father was trying to shield him. "The whole situation was just driving me crazy," Mr. Sattar said. He said he believed the Palestinians "were the victims, they were being slaughtered." He contended that the fatwa was only rhetoric, typical of "the way, unfortunately, that Arabs and Israelis communicate."
Asked to explain his role in the fatwa by one of his lawyers, Barry M. Fallick, Mr. Sattar said, "I did not want to kill them, I was just crying."
Mr. Sattar, a Staten Island postal worker, is charged with conspiracy to kill and kidnap in a foreign country, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. He also faces a charge of solicitation of crimes of violence, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
Mr. Sattar said that Ms. Stewart did not know anything about his role in creating the fatwa, or about numerous telephone conversations he had with Mr. Taha, who has been named by the State Department as one of the world's most dangerous terrorists.
Mr. Sattar testified that he had removed some words from Mr. Taha's fatwa text that called directly for attacks in the United States. He said that he never knew of any violent act that resulted from the ghost-written message.
He also testified that through a series of globe-spanning conference calls he set up in 2000, he had put Mr. Taha in direct communication with a militant Islamic fighter who was in hiding in southern
But he said he did not know that at the time that he connected the calls between Mr. Taha and Mr. Atia. Mr. Sattar said he remained on the line while the two men talked in Arabic, but he claimed he did not listen carefully to the call, or to many others he made to Egyptian militants in that period. He insisted he was not involved in their fundamentalist politics. "I thought I could help people who were yearning for their freedom," he explained.