By John Catalinotto New York 10/06/2005
Radical human rights attorney Lynne Stewart reviewed her own continuing legal struggle at a Workers World Party forum in New York on June 3. Stewart and her supporters charge that she has been falsely accused of "helping terrorists." She was convicted and faces a possible 30 years in prison at her Sept. 23 sentencing at the U.S. courthouse in downtown Manhattan.
The attorney’s defenders are working on both legal and popular challenges to her conviction. Their hope is to either get the case thrown out based on her First Amendment rights or to minimize the sentence to no actual jail time.
Specifically, Stewart was convicted for violating Special Administrative Measures (SAMS), imposed by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, by issuing a news release about her client Sheik Abdel-Rahman in 1995. There was a gag order on the case of her client. He had been convicted of planning the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
She explained that violating a SAMS is normally punished by refusing the attorney further contact with her client. In this case, the government used a conspiracy law to "bootstrap" the SAMS into criminal charges. Stewart spoke of the legitimate role of an attorney of "keeping your client alive in the media" to explain why she issued a news release for Abdel-Rahman.
The government’s goal with these charges was to intimidate attorneys from representing radical or revolutionary clients, Stewart said. But some lawyers have told Stewart that her struggle has inspired them to become active and aggressive defense attorneys.
Stewart has received much support from the progressive legal community and from the many left political activists who know what an important contribution she has made over her 27 years as an attorney.
She has represented, among other people, David Gilbert of the Weather Underground; Richard Williams of the United Freedom Front; Larry Davis, acquitted by reason of self-defense of the attempted murder of New York police officers; Sekou Odinga of the Black Liberation Army; and Nasser Ahmed, released after being imprisoned for over three years on non-existent "secret evidence."
On the web site for Stewart’s defense, lynnestewart.org, readers can find a list of her many upcoming speaking engagements, plans to demonstrate at her sentencing on Sept. 23, and details of a campaign to write letters asking for clemency to Manhattan federal Judge John Koetl by way of the defense committee. Readers can also get information by calling (212) 625-9696.
SOURCE: Workers World