by Jason Cain / July 2005 issue of Socialist Action newspaper
Lynne Stewart spoke before an enthusiastic audience of 75 people in the liberal bastion of West Hartford, Conn., on June 21. Stewart, a progressive attorney whom the U.S. government recently framed up on terrorism charges, was the featured speaker in a public forum entitled, “America’s Disappeared: Civil Liberties, Islamophobia and the War on Terror.”
Stewart faces 30 years in prison for the open and public act of issuing a media release on behalf of her client, the blind Sheik Omar Abdel Rachman, a leading opponent of the U.S.-backed Hosni Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt. It is the first time that the federal government has prosecuted a defense attorney in a terrorism case.
During her trial, the U.S. government submitted 85,000 wiretaps of her personal communications as “evidence” to convict her, including secret recordings of her private meetings with Rachman.
The forum was sponsored by Hartford Bring the Troops Home NOW!, the Greater Hartford Green Party, and the National Lawyers Guild of Connecticut.
Stewart was joined on the panel by Rachel Meeropol, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, who gave a talk about U.S. prisoner abuse in Guantanamo Bay. Meeropol recently edited a collection
of legal analyses and first-person testimonials about post-9/11 governmental attacks on civil liberties, including round-ups, indefinite detentions, and
Robby Meeropol, the father of Rachel and the son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, opened the discussion with remarks that drew historical parallels between the anti-communist witch hunt of the 1950s and the anti-Muslim and Arab hysteria of the present day.
When it was time for Stewart to speak, her words seemed to confirm the fears of many in the audience about widespread government surveillance of political opponents. “I’m going to talk about what happened to me,” she began, “but I want you all to know that mine is not an isolated case.” At the conclusion of her talk, Stewart received a standing ovation.
The forum raised $260 for the Lynne Stewart Defense Fund, which is currently planning to publish a full-page ad in The New York Times a few weeks before her Sept. 23 scheduled sentencing date.