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Report from Northern California
Lynne Stewart: Attorney Charged with "Terrorism" because she stood for Rights of Blind Scholar Shaikh Omar 'Abdel Rahman

[This report is from an area where Hamza Yusuf, self-styled scholar of Islam, has mesmerized Muslims with his knowledge of Arabic. Such is the "Islam" of these people that NONE of them was present at Ms. Stewart's important speech. In fact the only Muslim there was the representative of Jamaat al-Muslimeen who wrote this report.]

On Saturday, June 14th, the Marin County Peace and Justice Coalition sponsored Civil Liberties: Endangered. The program included the film, UNCIVIL LIBERTIES, a 30 minute video documenting the plight of Palestinian professor, Mazen Al Najjar, who has been jailed in a kind of limbo situation (based on secret evidence) since 1999. Daniel Glick, a community organizer in Marin, spoke about resistance to the Patriot Act and the success of resistance so far. He asserted that we are living in a time of incipient fascism, then he listed the markers of fascism: creation of scapegoats to distract; beligerant nationalism; cheap jingoism; disdain for human rights; control of the media; corrupt elections; cynical use of religion. Sound familiar?

A representative of the Labor Action Committee to free Mumia Abu-Jamal was also a panel member during the question and answer segment of the program. The main speaker, however, was Lynne Stewart, a criminal defense attorney for more than 25 years and the attorney for Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman. She was arrested April 9, 2002 for "materially aiding terrorism." The charge was based on the following: a press release she gave; overheard privileged attorney-client interviews, wiretapped conversations with the interpreter and paralegal on the case. The paralegal and the interpreter were also indicted.

The indictment came two years after the alleged acts but the motivation is transparent to anyone willing to look at the situation honestly. It is an obvious attempt to instill fear in lawyers who dare represent controversial defendants, especially immigrant detainees caught in the current post 9-11 sweep or those whom the U.S. government has targeted for purposes of setting an example. As Ms. Stewart pointed out, Sheikh Abdel Rahman's true offense is that he is an Islamic scholar and Egyptian leader who dared to speak out against Mubarak. She then laid out the basics of her own case.

According to the government, she violated Special Administrative Measures imposed by the Bureau of Prisons. These measures are designed to restrict the ability of Sheikh Abdel Rahman to communicate outside of the Minnesota Prison. That's a nice way of putting it. Sheikh Abdel Rahman, who is blind and in poor health, is being held in complete isolation, kept from having contact with other inmates, family, or friends.

The hearing for a motion to dismiss the government's case against Lynne Stewart had taken place just the day before (June 13, 2003). She expressed some cautious optimism. The judge (John G. Koeltl) overseeing the case had seemed discerning enough to ask the government prosecutors probing questions for which they seemed ill prepared to answer. One central question was not answered at all. When he asked for a specific definition of "material aid" (since she is accused of giving material aid to a terrorist group), the government's lawyers put their heads together for a number of minutes, yet never answered the question.

The judge had not given his decision by the time Lynne Stewart spoke in Marin, but she is feeling hopeful.

2003-06-19 Thu 18:45ct