Islamic Human Rights Commission
ACTION ALERT: Support Lynne Stewart: Latest Victim of the ‘War on Terror’
2. Suggested Action
Lynne Stewart (65) is a respected civil rights attorney who represents, among others, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, a blind Egyptian cleric serving life in prison in Florida. Sheikh Omar is the spiritual leader of Al-Gama\’a al-Islamiyya (The Islamic Group), a militant organisation in Egypt dedicated to overthrowing the oppressive Egyptian regime. On 10 February 2005, Stewart was convicted by a federal jury of conspiring to prepare to assist murder and lying to the government. She was accused of\”aiding terrorists\” by allegedly conveying \”messages\” from the Sheikh to his followers in Egypt. These instructions consisted of one public statement which Stewart read out in April 2000 to Reuters in which the Sheikh questioned the ceasefire that is currently in place between the Islamic Group and the Egyptian government. Sheikh Omar, a major political and religious figure in the Middle East, was anxious not to disappear into the black hole of U.S. prisons. Stewart insists she was simply doing her job. In doing so, it was held that Stewart evaded “Special Administrative Measures” (SAMs) which the Department of Justice, Bureau of Prisons sometimes imposes to restrict and shut off communication between prisoners and the outside world.
Stewart’s entire trial made a mockery of the system of due process and in particular, the age-old principle of attorney-client confidentiality. Following Stewart’s arrest in 2002, then Attorney-General John Ashcroft went to the ruins of the World Trade Centre and later onto a late night nationwide TV show, Letterman, and told the people that he had arrested the terrorist grandma. Wiretaps carried on for over 13 years were used in evidence. Evidence obtained from secret audio and video recordings of conversations between Stewart and the Sheikh at the jail were used as evidence in gross violation of the attorney-client privilege. The worst kind of hearsay and prejudicial evidence supposedly connecting Osama bin Laden to one of Stewart\’s co-defendants was also allowed into the case. While the jury was considering her case, she received threats, via a printed flier, that denounced her, and Sheikh Omar, too, as “traitors to America.” The Jewish Defense Organization, an extremist Jewish group, took credit for the flyer, copies of which were also put out on the streets around the federal courthouse where Steward\’s jury was then deliberating, in downtown Manhattan, according to the New York Times.
The extent that civil liberties in the West have been suspended can be seen in Ms Stewart’s conviction. It is the first time that the federal government has prosecuted a defense attorney in a terrorism case. Lawyers around the country fear the government\’s aim is to discourage them from representing unpopular clients. As Stewart herself stated following her conviction, “Lawyers cannot be locked up for doing their job.” The other fear is that lawyers who do represent such clients will have a constant fear of being indicted like Lynne Stewart, thus putting the interests of the government ahead of their client’s interests. The conviction is an attack on the First Amendment right of free speech, free press and petition and on the right to effective assistance of counsel. The \’evidence\’ in this case was gathered by wholesale invasion of private conversations, private attorney-client meetings and private faxes, letters and e-mails.
By targeting and convicting Lynne Stewart, the U.S. Justice Department hopes to make an example of an attorney with a long history of progressive political beliefs as well as a reputation for vigorously advocating on behalf of those whose lives have been entrusted to her. Her conviction is meant as a signal to the defense bar to cease and desist from zealous representation of persons criminalized by the Government.
Stewart will be returning to court to appeal her conviction in early March. Her sentencing has been set for June 15. If convicted, she faces up to 40 years in prison.
1. Send a letter of support to Lynne Stewart
Lynne Stewart is a 65 year old grandmother who has fought for the oppressed and downtrodden her whole life. She now needs our support more than ever before. Send a message of support to firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Make a donation to the Lynne Stewart Defense Fund
Lynne Stewart Defense Committee
351 Broadway, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10013
Tel. 212-679-6018 extension # 21
To donate to the Lynne Stewart Defense Fund, please click the link below and download the Donation Form, available in PDF format. Fill the form out and mail it with your check to:
Your donations are greatly appreciated!
3. Send a letter to the Foreign Secretary in your country raising your concerns about the latest stage in the persecution of Muslims and those who dare stand by them. A sample letter can be found below.
4. Write letters in support of Lynne Stewart
The Lynne Stewart defence team are trying to amass thousands of letters to present to the judge to show massive support in favour of leniency.
Please leave at least a one-inch left-hand margin to allow us to bind the letter into the appendix to the sentencing memorandum that is being filed on Lynne’s behalf. *typewritten letters if possible are preferred
INSIDE ADDRESS: Honorable John G. Koeltl, United States District Judge, Southern District of New York, United States Courthouse, 500 Pearl Street, New York, New York 10007, USA
GREETING: Honorable Sir or Dear Judge Koeltl:
BODY: Briefly say who you are and your relationship to Lynne, if any. Briefly discuss yourself – your position in work and in society. State that you are aware that Lynne is to be sentenced following a jury verdict of guilty, on serious charges. Tell the Judge why you believe she should not go to jail (i.e. age and lifetime of service to the community, no actual harm ever resulted, could lead to further government restrictions etc.). If possible, you should tell of an incident where she helped you out or what you may know of her commendable community service. Do not try to argue that she is not guilty or was unfairly convicted.
Focus on the unfairness of the government’s actions in bringing the charges; the way in which the government portrayed her, etc. You are asking the Judge to view her with mercy.
WHEN LETTER IS COMPLETED: Please mail the final product to the following address:
Jill R. Shellow-Lavine, Esq., 2537 Post Road, Southport, CT 06890, USA
Do NOT send your letters to the judge. We ask that you forward your letter me so that the lawyers can present it to Judge Koeltl with the other letters being written for this purpose. This is the manner in which letters will have the greatest impact. If they are sent directly to the Judge’s chambers, they may not be accounted for and could cause the judge a substantial inconvenience (and annoyance).
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the defense committee by email: email@example.com or find the link at the website: www.lynnestewart.org or telephone (212) 625-9696.
5. Write letters to national and international newspapers expressing your outrage at what is happening. Your individual letter may not be printed but if enough people write, the chances of one of those letters being printed are highly increased. For more information, see www.lynnestewart.org
Rt. Hon. Jack Straw MP
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
Dear Mr. Straw:
RE: Conviction of American Civil Rights Attorney, Lynne Stewart
I am writing out of deep concern about the significant suspension of human rights and civil liberties in the US, highlighted recently by the conviction of respected civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart for “aiding terrorism”.
Ms Stewart is the attorney for Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the spiritual leader of the Islamic Group, who is serving life in prison in the US. Ms Stewart was convicted because she read out one public statement from her client in April 2000 to Reuters in which the Sheikh questioned the ceasefire that is currently in place between the Islamic Group and the Egyptian government.
What is most shocking about this entire case has been the unprecedented encroachment of civil liberties and due process such as the principle of lawyer-client confidentiality. For example, following Ms Stewart’s arrest in 2002, then Attorney-General John Ashcroft went to the ruins of the World Trade Centre and later onto a late night nationwide TV show, Letterman, and told the people that he had arrested the terrorist grandma. Wiretaps carried on for over 13 years were used in evidence. Evidence obtained from secret audio and video recordings of conversations between Stewart and the Sheikh at the jail were used as evidence in gross violation of the attorney-client privilege. The \’evidence\’ in this case was gathered by wholesale invasion of private conversations, private attorney-client meetings and private faxes, letters and e-mails. Furthermore, the worst kind of hearsay and prejudicial evidence supposedly connecting Osama bin Laden to one of Stewart\’s co-defendants was also allowed into the case.
Ms Stewart, like may other public interest lawyers, has always campaigned for and represented the oppressed and downtrodden. However, this is the first time that the federal government has prosecuted a defence attorney in a terrorism case. It seems that the persecution of Muslims has now reached the extremely dangerous stage where those who dare to represent or aid Muslims will themselves be persecuted, regardless of their faith. This conviction seems designed to discourage others from coming to the assistance of people criminalized by the US government. The conviction is nothing but a vicious attack on the rights of free speech, free press and petition and on the right to effective assistance of counsel.
I strongly urge you to raise these concerns with your American counterparts. Such shocking treatment of a lawyer, who did no more than zealously represent her client, is a sign of the American witch-hunt against Muslims and their friends. Such practices are completely abhorrent to a nation which prides itself on its status as a “free and democratic country”.
I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience,
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“And what reason have you that you should not fight in the way of Allah and of the weak among the men and the women and the children, (of) those who say: Our Lord! Cause us to go forth from this town, whose people are oppressors, and give us from Thee a guardian and give us from Thee a helper.”
Holy Qur’an: Chapter 4, Verse 75
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