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Commentary :: Human Rights : International
18 Oct 2006

Well, the Bush Administration has finally got New York Attorney Lynne Stewart where they want her. Ms. Stewart had previously been indicted on the vague and flimsy charge of materially aiding terrorism by essentially, on the record at the trial, providing zealous advocacy for her client Sheik Rahman who had been convicted in various terrorist schemes including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. At a trial in Federal District Court in New York City where the prosecution used every scare tactic in the post- 9/11 “War on Terror” playbook she was convicted. On October 16, 2006 she was finally sentenced on the charges. The federal judge in the case noting the severity of the crime but also the invaluable service that Ms. Stewart had rendered to the voiceless and downtrodden sentence her to 28 months.

This sentence has been describesd as victory of sorts by Attorney Stewart and other commentators. The ever upbeat Ms. Stewart is quoted as stating that she, like some of her clients, could do that time “standing on her head”. Well, that may be, but the fact of the matter is that Ms. Stewart should not have been indicted, should not have been convicted and most defeinitely not sentenced for her actions on behalf of her client. Only the fact that the judge did not totally surrender to the government’s blatant appeals to “national security” issues and sentence her to the thirty years that they requested makes this any kind of “victory”. That joy over any lesser sentence could be considered as such is a telling reminder of the times we live in.

This case and the publicity surrounding it has dramatically warned any attorney who is committed to zealous defense of an unpopular or voiceless client to back off or face the consequences. The chilling effect on such advocacy, in some cases the only possible way to truly defend a client in this overheated reactionary atmosphere, is obvious. Moreover, the whole question of “material” aid to terrorism is a Pandora’s box for any political activist or even a merely interested non-political participant in any organization on the government’s “hit” list.

The government has the possibility of appealing the sentence to the Federal Court of Appeals so as of today October 18, 2006 the travails of Ms. Stewart are not over.
Moreover, her conviction is still on appeal. From what I can gather in any reasonably quiet appeals court some of more blatant actions by the prosecution at trial would warrant, at minimum, a new trial if not the overturning of the convicition. Again, in these times such confidence may be unwarranted. In short, the “people’s lawyer” Lynne Stewart needs finacial help to wage these new battles. Please consider sending a donation to the Lynne Steart Defense Fund or to the organization I support the Partisan Defense Committee which will forward the donation. You can google either organization for addresses. .
Related stories on this site:
Lynne Stewart's Victory: Remains Free on Bail

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