New York judge grants London imam new lawyers for sentencing, appeal of terrorism conviction


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NEW YORK — A London imam convicted on terrorism charges can change lawyers for the sentencing and appeal of his case, a judge said Tuesday after warning him that new attorneys may take time to get up to speed on the facts of his case.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest granted the imam, Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, his wish to replace his trial lawyers after he complained about them in a lengthy letter to the court.

Mustafa said in the letter that his relationship with his attorneys was polite and respectful but also unworkable. The lawyers agreed with their client at Tuesday's hearing, saying there's been a communication breakdown that cannot be repaired.

"It's not salvageable," attorney Joshua Dratel said.

The judge praised the lawyers, telling Mustafa: "They have done a terrific job representing you, despite the verdict."

Mustafa was convicted last month of supporting terrorist organizations for ensuring there were satellite communications for kidnappers during a 1998 attack on tourists in Yemen. Four hostages were killed. He was extradited in 2012 from England.

Mustafa had asked the judge for a swift change in lawyers. Forrest said she will appoint new counsel as soon as lawyers with appropriate security clearances can be found.

She also warned him that there were "rather significant consequences" by switching to lawyers who did not experience the trial and its preparation with him.

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