Four Arrested for U.S. Terrorism Conspiracy

NEW YORK?An attorney and three other people were indicted Tuesday on charges they provided support to the Egyptian-based terrorist organization known as the Islamic Group.

The indictment accuses the defendants of supporting the organization by passing messages regarding Islamic Group activities “to and from the imprisoned Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman.”

It further charges that the unlawful communications with the sheik occurred during prison visits and attorney telephone calls involving Lynne Stewart, a lawyer for the sheik, and Mohammed Yousry, an Arabic translator who is also charged.

The indictment alleges the sheik in October 2000 issued an edict titled “Fatwah Mandating the Bloodshed of Israelis Everywhere,” which called on “brother scholars everywhere in the Muslim world to do their part and issue an unanimous fatwah (edict) that urges the Muslim nation to fight the Jews and kill them wherever they are.”

Attorney General John Ashcroft and other officials discussed the case at an afternoon news conference.

Stewart was arrested by federal agents Tuesday morning, according to her lawyer, Susan Tipograph.

“She has been arrested and apparently is at FBI headquarters right now,” said Tipograph, reached by telephone. A woman answering the phone in Stewart’s office said FBI agents arrived at about 11:30 a.m. and were executing a search warrant.

Abdel-Rahman is serving a life sentence in the United States for conspiring to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and blow up five New York City landmarks in the 1990s.

The four-story building that houses Stewart’s offices in lower Manhattan was locked and a New York City police officer stood guard outside.

A statement from the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan said several people were indicted “for their material support of a terrorism organization.”

Abdel-Rahman, 63, was among 10 defendants convicted by a Manhattan jury in 1995 of seditious conspiracy in a plot to bomb the United Nations, FBI headquarters in Manhattan, two tunnels and a bridge connecting New Jersey and New York.

Prosecutors said the defendants wanted to use urban terrorism to pressure the United States into curbing support for Middle East nations that opposed the sheik’s extremist brand of Islam.

Stewart argued during the trial that the blind sheik was being prosecuted for his speech.

U.S. Attorney James Comey, Assistant FBI Director Kevin Donovan and New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly also were scheduled to appear at the news conference.

Ashcroft was also scheduled to view the World Trade Center site later Tuesday.

The agency overseeing the rebuilding of the ruined World Trade Center area offered a plan Tuesday to turn it into a pedestrian-friendly hub of offices and homes, with a “museum of freedom and remembrance” and a memorial chosen through an international competition.

The plan is just a rough blueprint and will go through months if not years of discussions and revisions.

The early stages of the memorial planning process should begin by the summer, the agency’s lead planner said.

The plan envisions Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, the New York Stock Exchange and the World Trade Center memorial as elements of a regional “Freedom Park” that could be marketed and operated as a single destination.

The corporation also moved Tuesday to expand its program of incentives for New Yorkers to move and stay downtown.