By JEFF MACKLER
On Aug. 1, imprisoned radical attorney Lynne Stewart, who is serving a 10-year sentence at a federal medical prison in Carswell, Texas, on frame-up charges of conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism, was sanctioned by prison authorities for 45 days.
Stewart’s offense? On behalf of a fellow inmate, Stewart mailed a copy of letter to a circuit court to her husband, Ralph Poynter, who was asked to forward the letter to the court. Stewart’s objective was to “memorialize,” that is, formally date the letter in the circuit court record.
Prison “rules,” which are more often than not arbitrarily interpreted to administer punishment, allow for such mailings but only after the original letter has been sent by the inmate herself. In this instance cynical prison officials, who routinely open and read all mail, appear to have purposefully delayed the mailing of Lynne’s friend’s letter so as to bring about a violation of prison rules.
Steward will now be denied for 45 days all prison commissary access (food, assorted clothing items, reading materials, etc.) as well as telephone calls, email access and visitors.
Stewart was aware that prison officials might well delay her friend’s legal communication but she deemed its receipt by the court more important than the risk of punishment. Stewart, a human rights attorney of 30 years standing, now disbarred, said: “I know why I do what I do. The government’s oppressive response, although sometimes more horrific than at other times, is to be expected.” Stewart took the risk to help a fellow inmate, something she has become well known for since her incarceration almost three years ago.
Stewart’s appeal to the Second Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals was recently denied. Her attorneys are now preparing a final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Stewart, along with former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, was the lead attorney in the 1995 New York trial of the “blind Sheik” Omar Abdel Rachman, who had been similarly framed on conspiracy/terrorism charges. Stewart was imprisoned because she had issued a press release on her client’s behalf, an act that in normal times results in the most minor of punishments, like the denial of attorney visiting rights for a short period. In Stewart’s case, her abusive witch-hunt-like trial, conducted in the shadow of the “war on terror,” was replete with the introduction of hearsay “evidence” aimed at associating Stewart with terrorist individuals and activities around the world.
Ironically, Stewart’s client, Sheik Rachman, now serving a life sentence in Rochester, Minn., was again brought to public attention last month when Egypt’s new president, Mohamed Morsi, demanded his release, an embarrassment to U.S. officials indeed. Rachman, at the time of his trial, was a leading critic of the now-deposed and U.S.-backed Egyptian dictator, Hosni Mubarak. Stewart’s press release on behalf of Rachman was in response to an inquiry he received as to how his Egyptian co-thinkers should respond to the persistent prison and other assassinations of their Muslim allies by the Murarak regime despite the existence of a cease-fire agreement between the government and the Muslim Group.
Letters to Stewart, who may be able to access them in 45 days can be mailed to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Carswell FMC, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, Texas 76127. Contributions to Lynne’s defense can be mailed and made payable to: Lynne Stewart Organization, 1070 Dean St., Brooklyn, New York 11216.