Posted November 18, 2009
On November 18, 2009 defense attorney Lynne Stewart’s conviction on five charges of conspiracy, providing and concealing material support to terrorist activity and making false statements was affirmed by a federal appeals court. Her conviction and subsequent disbarment arose from her visits to her client, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted in 1995 of seditious conspiracy to attack New York City landmarks, including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
She was tried for violating Special Administrative Measures put in place to isolate Rahmnan. The government cited Stewart’s violation of the measures by pointing to press statements she issued on behalf of her client in May 2000. In her defense Stewart said that she believed she was permitted to release such statements. They did not call for violence and no violence subsequently occurred. (See “Civil Liberties on Trial” in ATC 115 for background: http://www.solidarity-us.org/node/61.)
In April 2002, elevating her alleged administrative violation to a crime, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced her indictment and then flew to New York to announce it on “The David Letterman Show.” Along with her interpreter and paralegal, Stewart was tried and convicted two years later. The prosecution asked for a 30-year sentence but the judge, after taking into account mitigating factors, sentenced her to 28 months.
Bail for the 70-year old Stewart was revoked and she and her interpreter, Mohamed Yousry, were ordered to begin serving their sentences. The appeals judges called for the sentencing judge to take a second look at the sentence he gave Stewart. Two urged him to revisit the mitigating factors, while the third judge called it “not only procedurally unreasonable, but also substantively unreasonable and an abuse of discretion.”
The criminal conviction against Lynne Stewart, her interpreter and paralegal is a major threat to the right to representation in politically charged trials. It was a major victory for the Bush administration in the post-9/11 period. Although the Bush regime is history, its legacy needs to be renounced by the current administration.
Tax free contributions can be made to the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee, payable to the National Lawyers Guild Foundation. Be sure to write in the memo line, Lynne Stewart Defense. Mail to Lynne Stewart Defense, PO Box 10328, Oakland, CA 94610.