Friday, February 11, 2005

Free Lynne Stewart!

This is terrible news: Lynne Stewart, as well as all her co-defendants, was found guilty on all counts, "a major victory for Justice Department prosecutors" (Julia Preston, "Lawyer of Terrorist Found Guilty," New York Times, February 12, 2005). The case doesn't concern Stewart alone -- it is a threat to all lawyers who represent defendants accused of terrorism:
  • "It's a dark day for civil liberties and for civil liberties lawyers in this country," attorney Ron Kuby said on Thursday following the verdict in federal court in Manhattan. "In the post 9-11 era, where dissidents are treated as traitors, it's perhaps no surprise that a zealous civil rights lawyer becomes a convict."

    Kuby -- who briefly represented Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman after the sheik's 1993 arrest -- said the verdict was a "terrible message to send at a time when we need civil rights lawyers more than ever."

    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    "The purpose of this prosecution ... was to send a message to lawyers who represent alleged terrorists that it's dangerous to do so," said Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who was not involved in the case.

    "It would be bad if the government interjected themselves in the attorney-client relationship on a regular basis. It would be a sad day if that became the norm," said Andrew Patel, who worked alongside Stewart at Abdel-Rahman's trial and represents Jose Padilla, an alleged terror plotter detained in a Navy brig. "I pray to God it doesn't." (Larry Neumeister/Associated Press, "Verdict in Lynne Stewart Case Shakes Legal Community," Newsday, February 11, 2005)

  • Activist attorney and radio talk show personality Ron Kuby, who once represented Stewart's client Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, said the verdict will intimidate attorneys handling unpopular political clients.

    "It makes it that much more easier for the government to intimidate activist lawyers," Kuby said. "The threat of 20 years incarceration is a terrible deterrent against zealous advocacy."

    Kuby, who, along with the late William Kunstler, has represented his share of political clients, said he would continue to help unpopular litigants. But he said other lawyers, faced with criticism from the media, their families and other attorneys, might choose not to push a client's cause vociferously.

    "It reflects the tenor of the times," said Jonathan Marks, who is representing Mohammed Ali Hassan al-Moayad in a terrorism-related case in federal court in Brooklyn.

    Marks said the Stewart verdict illustrates the tremendous prejudice faced by people linked to Islamic fundamentalism.

    Attorney Anthony Ricco, who has worked on several terror-related cases and currently represents Uzair Paracha, who is accused of providing material support to terrorists, agreed.

    "It will definitely have a chilling effect," Ricco said - if not on experienced lawyers, on those unfamiliar with the boundaries who may defer to the government rather than face criminal charges themselves. (Anthony M. DeStefano, "Activist Lawyers Fear 'Chilling Effect' from Verdict," Newsday, February 11, 2005)
When the state starts locking up lawyers for zealously defending their clients, it begins to cross a fine line that separates a normal capitalist state from an authoritarian dictatorship. Free Lynne Stewart!

1 comment:

Michael S. said...

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