[Ppnews] Lynne Stewart on Democracy Now - on her way to sentencing 16 Oct 2006

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Oct 16 13:25:20 EDT 2006

Followed by NY Times Article

Monday, October 16th, 2006
Facing Up To 30 Years in Prison, Civil Rights 
Attorney Lynne Stewart Speaks Out As She Heads To Courthouse for Sentencing

Civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart is to be 
sentenced in a federal court in Manhattan later 
today. She faces up to thirty years in prison. 
Last year, Stewart was convicted of five counts 
of conspiring to aid terrorists and lying to the 
government. Stewart’s case has reverberated with 
defense attorneys around the country. Many argue 
that the government’s aim is to discourage them 
from representing unpopular clients. [includes rush transcript - partial]

Stewart was convicted of smuggling out messages 
from her jailed client - Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman 
- also known as the blind sheikh - who is serving 
a life sentence on terror-related charges. Most 
notably, Stewart was convicted of helping Rahman 
contact followers in Egypt with messages that 
could have ended a cease-fire there and ignited 
violence. Stewart’s co-defendants - Ahmed Sattar, 
a postal worker who acted as a paralegal for 
Abdel-Rahman, and Mohammed Yousry - an Arabic 
translator, were also convicted of all charges 
against them. This was the first time that the 
federal government prosecuted a defense attorney in a terrorism case.

The seven-month trial was held in the same New 
York federal courthouse, just blocks from our 
firehouse studio, where the Rosenbergs were tried 
for conspiracy to commit espionage more than a 
half century ago. It featured very few witnesses 
as the government’s case was based primarily on 
transcripts from more than 85,000 secretly 
recorded audio and video clips of meetings 
between Stewart and her client as well as the 
home phone of Ahmed Abdel Sattar.

Last month, Stewart wrote a personal letter to 
the court and acknowledged for the first time 
that she knowingly violated prison rules and was 
careless, overemotional and politically naive in 
her representation of her client... She has asked for leniency from the court.

And Lynne Stewart joins me now here in the 
studio, just hours before her sentencing.
    * Lynne Stewart, human rights attorney

AMY GOODMAN: Lynne Stewart now joins me in our 
firehouse studio just hours before she is 
sentenced in the courthouse nearby. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Lynne.

LYNNE STEWART: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: How are you doing?

LYNNE STEWART: I’m stressed, but I am beneficial 
of a large outpouring of support and love, 
recognition of my career as a lawyer in this city 
-- my representation of the poor, of the 
disenfranchised, of the voiceless, if you will, 
for over 30 years -- that happened last night at 
Riverside Church and at other meetings all week 
long, St. Mark’s, up in Harlem, we had an 
outpouring as well. So I’m buoyed by the people 
who believe in me, the people who know that 
everything I did, I did as a lawyer, not as a 
terrorist, as the government would have people believe.

AMY GOODMAN: For people who are new to this case, 
explain what you have been convicted of.

LYNNE STEWART: Yes. You know, the government has 
put in what my dear friend Bill Kunstler used to 
call “weasel words,” words that don’t state the 
exact facts but really pull a kind of reaction. 
So they use words like “smuggled out messages.” 
We would visit the Sheik. He would tell us, he 
would dictate to us letters. He would dictate to us press releases.

The real thrust of my conviction is that I made a 
press release very openly to Reuters, no secret, 
nothing under the bra straps, and that press 
release called for a reconsideration, not an end 
to the ceasefire, but a reconsideration of a 
unilateral ceasefire that the Sheik's group, 
which he of course had not been a member of for 
ten years at the time he made the release, had 
made in Egypt. Ramsey Clark had announced his 
original position, which was in support of the 
ceasefire. Ramsey Clark never heard from the 
government at all. I made the press release 
saying, “I think you should reconsider this 
ceasefire,” and a year-and-a-half later, I was indicted.

AMY GOODMAN: You have written a letter to the judge. Explain this letter.

LYNNE STEWART: Yes. I’m afraid that if you only 
read the New York Times, you may get the wrong 
impression. It’s not a craven, begging letter. I 
am still very sure of my principled stand in this 
whole matter, that everything I did, I did as a 
lawyer, that I never intended to aid my client's 
cause. I intended to aid this man, this man who was in terrible isolation.

Now, if we saw it today, we would say, “Oh, yes. 
This is the torture. This is the kind of torture 
that we see at Abu Ghraib, that we see at 
Guantanamo.” He had no contact with the outside 
world. He could not even speak with his jailers. 
He had one call a month for 15 minutes to his 
wife and a call a week to his lawyers. He could 
not pick up a book to relieve this isolation, 
because he’s blind. He was so diminished, he was 
in such terrible shape when I went to see him in 
May of 2000, hallucinating almost, out of this terrible sensory deprivation.

And I just felt that to keep hope alive -- as a 
lawyer, that’s what we do. We say, “We can 
continue fighting this. We can work on this” -- I 
agreed to make this press release, never 
imagining that it would become part of a criminal 
case. I thought the worst that could happen, 
which was actually spelled out in the 
regulations, was that they might deprive me of 
the ability to visit him. If that happened, he 
still had Ramsey Clark and Abdeen Jabara to 
visit, and we would have been able to go to court and fight the case.

I told the judge all of this in that letter, 
because I wanted him to understand how defense 
lawyers function. We function on behalf of the 
client. We become involved with the client. 
There’s a mutuality there. And people find it -- 
you know, we always hear, “How could you defend 
that guy?” Well, there’s something that happens. 
There’s a chemistry that happens. And maybe it’s 
the adversary system, which I’ve always been a 
backer of. I think it is the best way to decide 
criminal matters. You become alive with your 
client, not in his goals, not in his political 
goals, not in his life goals, but in the sense 
that you want to further his cause of getting out 
from under these opprobrious conditions.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Lynne Stewart. It’s 
just an hour before she heads to court. She was 
tried in the same courtroom as the Rosenbergs 
were more than a half a century ago. We’ll be back with her in a minute.

Lawyer Is Due for Sentencing in Terror Case

Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times

Lynne Stewart in her former law office. She was 
convicted in 2005 of aiding a high-profile terrorist.

Published: October 16, 2006  The New York Times

F. Stewart, the firebrand lawyer known for 
defending unsavory criminals, now faces the 
possibility of living out her life like many of 
them, in maximum-security lockdown in a federal prison.

Today, 20 months after she was convicted on 
terror charges, Ms. Stewart and two co-defendants 
who were convicted of conspiring with her will be 
sentenced in Federal District Court in Manhattan. 
Prosecutors, arguing that Ms. Stewart repeatedly 
flouted the law to aid the violent designs of an 
imprisoned terrorist client, have asked Judge 
John G. Koeltl to condemn her to 30 years in prison.

That would be a life sentence for Ms. Stewart, 
who turned 67 last week. Long an abrasive 
advocate of anti-government causes, these days 
she is not defiant. She is mournful about what 
she said were her failures as a lawyer.

Her dread of prison deepened unexpectedly, Ms. 
Stewart said, during the long period after a jury 
found her guilty on Feb. 10, 2005, of providing 
material aid to terrorism. She has recently 
recovered from breast cancer, but fears it will return in prison.

And if the judge comes down hard, she could be 
held in solitary confinement with limited visits, 
the same conditions as Sheik 
Abdel Rahman, the terrorist she was convicted of aiding.

All three defendants have had to wait for 
sentencing while Ms. Stewart was treated for 
cancer. She has finished radiation treatments, 
she said, and her doctors have declared that she 
is cancer-free. But she worries about the medical care in prison.

“I feel very threatened by it,” Ms. Stewart said. 
“I know too much about the way they deal with you in prison.”

Ms. Stewart’s sentencing will culminate a case 
the Bush administration cites as a major 
counter-terrorism achievement. Former Attorney 
Ashcroft, who brought the indictment, devoted a 
full chapter to the case in his new memoir.

Ms. Stewart still denies that she acted to 
further any violent goals of the sheik, a blind 
Islamic cleric from Egypt who is serving a life 
sentence for a thwarted 1993 plot to bomb New 
York City landmarks. Whatever the sentence, her 
lawyers have said they will appeal the case.

But in documents they submitted to persuade Judge 
Koeltl to be lenient and give her no prison time, 
Ms. Stewart is newly remorseful about 
“ill-advised” moves on behalf of her client.

“I still believe it was justifiable ­ but perhaps 
not in the way that I did it,” Ms. Stewart said 
in a sober interview in a borrowed room in the 
Manhattan offices where she used to practice law. 
She was speaking of her actions in June 2000 to 
violate strict prison rules, known as special 
administrative measures, by publicizing a message 
from the sheik to his militant followers in Egypt.

The government’s call for a 30-year sentence 
jolted her, she said, into deeper self-criticism.

“Stewart’s criminal conduct, which lasted more 
than two years, was both extremely dangerous and 
devious,” two assistant United States attorneys, 
Andrew Dember and Robin Baker, wrote in their 
sentencing motion. Her actions, they said, 
“should be offensive to those actually zealously 
defending criminal defendants within the bounds of the law.”

There was never any question during the 
eight-month trial that Ms. Stewart had broken the 
rules by releasing the sheik’s statement, which 
said he no longer supported a cease-fire by his 
followers in Egypt. Another defendant, Ahmed 
Abdel Sattar, 47, a Staten Island postal worker, 
was convicted of negotiating with the militants 
by telephone to promote an end to the cease-fire.

The government wants a life sentence for Mr. 
Sattar. It is seeking 20 years for Mohamed 
Yousry, the Arabic translator who was convicted 
of helping Ms. Stewart smuggle Mr. Abdel Rahman’s messages out of prison.

These days, Ms. Stewart says, what stings is that 
she agrees with some of prosecutors’ claims about her faulty legal work.

In her trial testimony, she said she believed 
that she could stretch the prison rules because 
she regarded them as unconstitutional. But the 
argument was weak because, as prosecutors noted, 
she never made a formal legal challenge.

She said that she completely misjudged how 
prosecutors viewed the sheik and the leeway she 
could take in defending him, as terrorism became 
an increasing threat to the United States. “To 
me, the sheik was part of the demonized other,” 
she said, “part of a continuum” with other 
violent radicals she had defended more 
successfully, including members of the Weather 
Underground and the Black Panthers.

She admits that she became too close to the 
sheik, insisting it was because of his 
deteriorating health and sanity after years in 
solitary confinement, not any affinity with his Islamic fundamentalism.

“I ignored any warning signs,” Ms. Stewart said. 
“I led with my heart instead of my head and thought it would be all right.”

While Ms. Stewart says she regrets some of her 
actions, one co-defendant, Mr. Yousry, is not 
offering any apologies to the judge.

“I wish to God I can say I’m sorry,” he said in 
an interview. “But I’m not guilty and I’m not 
going to say I’m sorry for something that I didn’t do.”

In the past months, Mr. Yousry, 51, has gone from 
bewildered to angry, reliving the trial in his 
mind. He was fired from a teaching job at the 
University of New York when he was indicted and 
can no longer find work as a translator. Out on 
bail, he spends his time at home in Bridgeport, Conn.

Mr. Yousry said he keeps coming back to the fact 
that he, unlike Ms. Stewart, never signed an 
agreement to uphold the rules that restricted 
communication with the sheik. The evidence 
confirmed that he acted on specific instructions 
from Ms. Stewart. Prosecutors acknowledge that 
Mr. Yousry, who is not a practicing Muslim, did 
not support the sheik’s ideas or violence. They 
have called him the “least culpable” defendant.

In a letter to the judge, Michael Gasper, a 
history professor at 
said Mr. Yousry had long shown an “obvious and 
unconcealed distaste for any brand of Islamic activism.”

Mr. Yousry has never broken rank with Ms. 
Stewart. But his voice rose when he discussed how she handled the sheik’s case.

“My job wasn’t to tell the lawyer what to do,” he 
said. “Lynne is known as an in-your-face kind of 
lawyer. She lives for the moment when she can 
stand up to the government and challenge them on 
issues. That’s her thing. That’s Lynne Stewart, not Mohamed Yousry.”

There was little sympathy for Ms. Stewart among 
mainstream lawyers during the trial. But more 
than 400 letters she submitted to Judge Koeltl 
about her sentence include many from law 
professors and criminal defense lawyers who said 
that her actions never caused actual harm and 
warned of a chilling effect on lawyers who defend 
terrorists if she receives a long sentence. Her 
lawyers cite her long service as a 
government-appointed lawyer for rebels, mobsters and murderers.

Jo Ann Harris, a former assistant attorney 
general who authorized the 1994 indictment of Mr. 
Abdel Rahman, wrote that the terrorism counts 
against Ms. Stewart were “unwarranted overkill.”

Ms. Stewart’s failing, she wrote, was that she 
“didn’t have a clue that the stick she was poking 
in the government’s eye was going to have 
consequences beyond her imagination.”

The author Gore Vidal wrote to ask the judge to 
“side with our Bill of Rights” by not imprisoning Ms. Stewart.

Ms. Stewart said that while her radical leftist 
views have not changed, she will continue to 
fight within the system. “I really think that my 
patriotism ­ if you’ll excuse the expression ­ 
and my love of this profession demand that I have to stay and fight.”

The Freedom Archives
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(415) 863-9977
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