Court denies re-hearing for Lynne Stewart

BY JEFF MACKLER

On Sept. 24, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected Lynne Stewart’s appeal for a re-hearing before the entire court. Her original conviction was upheld in 2009 by a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit. The court’s opinion was not unexpected. This was the same court that earlier pressed Federal District Court John Koeltl to re-consider his original 28-month sentence and instead sentence Lynne to 10 years.

Disgracefully, Judge Koeltl explained the increased sentence by saying: “[C]omments by Stewart in 2006, including a statement in a television interview that she would do ‘it’ again and would not ‘do anything differently’ influenced [the] decision … indicating the original sentence ‘was not sufficient’ to reflect the goals of sentencing guidelines.”

Stewart, a leading civil rights attorney for 30 years, was convicted in 2005 on frame-up charges of  conspiracy to aid and abet terrorism. Her crime? She issued a press release on behalf of her client, the “blind sheik” Omar Abdel Rachman, a leading Egyptian Islamic cleric who was also a victim of the U.S. “war on terror.” Rachman was subjected to a government-instigated frame-up trial and convicted of conspiracy to destroy New York buildings. Typical of “conspiracy” convictions, no evidence of wrongdoing was presented at his trial other than the fact that he attended a meeting where some participants proposed the bombings that Rachman outright rejected.

A leading critic of the U.S.-backed Hosni Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt, he is currently serving a life sentence in Rochester, Minn. His case was the subject of national attention a few months ago when Egypt’s new president, Mohammad Morsi, embarrassed the Obama administration by demanding his release.

Lynne’s attorneys explained on Sept. 24, “The clock now starts running on our Petition for Certiorari to the Supreme Court. We have 90 days to get it filed (with the possibility of a 30-day extension).”

Lynne’s lengthy 2005 trial, which this writer attended for weeks on end, was replete with violations of basic democratic rights, all of which will be the basis of her upcoming appeal. The presiding judge allowed the introduction of massive “evidence of terrorist activities” without a single indication of Stewart’s involvement. Indeed, much of this “evidence,” in the form of press clippings, had been given to Lynne’s defense team by the government itself during the discovery process—again, and in all cases, without the slightest indication of Stewart’s involvement.

When Lynne’s attorney at that time, Michael Tigar, objected to the press clippings being introduced to the jury on the grounds that they were entirely hearsay, the judge agreed but nevertheless allowed them to be presented to indicate the mind of the defendant.

Lynne is incarcerated at FMC Carswell outside of Fort Worth, Texas. She has successfully recovered from a difficult surgery that was spitefully delayed by prison authorities. For 45 days Lynne was denied all visitors, mail and other basic prison “rights” on the trumped-up accusation that she violated prison rules in assisting a fellow prisoner to certify a legal document. Her spirits are high and she is now going through a backlog of  some 100-plus letters from friends and supporters.

Write Lynne at: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, FMC Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Ft. Worth, TX 76127.

Jeff Mackler is the West Coast coordinator of the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee.