by Dave Feingold / October 2006 issue of Socialist Action Newspaper
BREAKING NEWS, Oct. 16—As we go to press, Lynne Stewart has been sentenced in a New York City federal courtroom to 28 months in prison, far less than the 30 years the government was seeking.
NEW YORK—Mackler’s campaign has championed the defense efforts of progressive attorney Lynne Stewart, who faces a 30-year prison sentence as a result of her frame-up trial and conviction on charges of “conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism.”
The charges stemmed from Stewart’s 1995 courtroom defense of the “blind sheik,” Omar Abdel Rachman, and Stewart’s associated issuance of a press release relating Rachman’s views on the U.S.-backed Egyptian dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak.
Stewart is out on bail pending her Oct. 16 sentencing hearing. She twice joined Mackler at Socialist Action-sponsored meetings in New York to lend support to his Senate campaign.
“Lynne’s only ‘crime’,” said Mackler, “was to courageously defend her client. The real criminals in Lynne’s case are the government prosecutors, modern-day witch hunters who trampled on her rights, illegally wiretapped Stewart and her co-defendents some 80,000 times, and used the hysteria surrounding the 9/11 events to in effect associate Stewart with bin Laden and railroad her to prison.
“My opponent, Dianne Feinstein,” said Mackler, “co-sponsored new and reactionary Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act wire-tapping legislation that was approved by Congress on Sept. 13, 2006.
“What we’re seeing today, with Lynne’s case and government spying more generally, is an unprecedented war on civil liberties at home matched by the murderous wars abroad in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s that way with every U.S. war for plunder and profit. Repression abroad means repression at home.”
While in New York Mackler attended a Sept. 25 Federal District Court hearing presided over by Judge John Koeltl. The hearing concerned motions filed by Lynne Stewart concerning her request to the government to affirm or deny that it had illegally spied on Stewart’s strategy sessions with her attorneys as she prepared for her trial. Three federal district courts have already affirmed that such spying is patently in violation of constitutionally protected rights regarding attorney-client relations.
The government prosecutor responded to Stewart’s demands by refusing to either affirm or deny that the government has spied on Stewart. To do so, said the government’s attorneys, would be to reveal details of the government’s secret surveillance programs and thereby threaten the “national security interests” of the United States.
Citing chapter and verse from various new and reactionary laws, the prosecutor insisted on the government’s right to unimpeded spying on virtually everyone.
If Stewart’s motions to compel the government to admit that it spied on her during her preparations for trial are successful, the result could be the nullification of the guilty verdict that resulted from Stewart’s 2005 frame-up trial. A decision from Judge Koeltl, who queried both attorneys as to the relevance of the laws and cases in dispute, is expected momentarily.
Meanwhile, Stewart’s Oct. 16 sentencing hearing will witness Judge Koeltl decision to either affirm the government’s recommendation that Stewart be sentenced to 30 years in prison or to accept the recommendation of Lynne’s defense team that she receive no prison time or a “non-custodial” sentence.
Current law allows for Koeltl to use his “discretion” as to the length of Stewart’s sentence and as to whether she will be granted bail pending her appeal to the next level of the federal courts.
Mackler, West Coast coordinator of Stewart’s defense, will return to New York to attend Stewart’s sentencing hearing and to speak at a 4-6 p.m. rally for Stewart at Riverside Church on Oct. 15. He will be joined on the platform by a long list of prominent defenders of civil and democratic rights.