First they came for the lawyers…
Trial of People's Lawyer Lynne Stewart Set to Begin

Revolutionary Worker #1240, May 16, 2004, posted at

The trial of Attorney Lynne Stewart is scheduled to begin on May 17 in New York City. The outrageous indictment of Stewart is aimed at sending a chilling message to lawyers who might consider representing people accused by the government of terrorism or other political charges.

One of Stewart's clients is Islamic cleric Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted and sentenced to life for seditious conspiracy in connection with alleged plots in the early 1990s to attack New York landmarks.

Last summer a federal judge threw out two of the charges against Stewart. In November John Ashcroft and the Justice Dept. announced a new indictment. The original charges were "conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization, providing material support to a terrorist organization, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, and making false statements." The new indictment replaces the first two with "conspiring to provide and conceal material support to terrorist activity" and "providing and concealing support to terrorist activity." The indictment implies that actual terrorist acts were committed as a result of this alleged activity.

The government alleges that Stewart and two Arab men also facing trial--Mohammed Yousry (a translator) and Ahmed Abdel Sattar (a paralegal)--helped Rahman pass messages between him and his organization. Stewart is accused of speaking in English to distract prison guards so that Yousry could communicate secretly with Rahman in Arabic. Prosecutors also claim that Stewart tried to keep secret from the government a public press conference where she released a statement from Rahman.

The charges are based on secret surveillance tapes of lawyer-client conversations between Stewart and Rahman that took place in 2000 and information the government says is from taps of phone conversations during the same time. It was not until two years later--after 9/11 and the passage of the Patriot Act--that Stewart was indicted.

Conviction on any of the charges would be a very dangerous legal precedent and would seriously undermine the rights of lawyers and their clients to consult without government spying and intrusion. Lawyers who defend those persecuted by the government are precious to the people and the fight for justice. Such lawyers must be defended when they themselves face attacks from the government.

Refuse & Resist! is calling for people to pack the courtroom on the first day of Lynne Stewart's trial: May 17, U.S. District Court, 40 Foley Square.

(For more background, see "Lynne Stewart: Lawyer Under Fire" in RW #1162, available online at Legal documents on the case are available at