On February 10, a jury in New York City convicted longtime activist attorney Lynne Stewart of conspiracy, providing material support to terrorists, defrauding the government and making false statements.
But, as David Cole comments in the latest issue of The Nation, rather than making us safer, this conviction “illustrates how out of hand things have gotten in the ‘war on terrorism’…To inflate its successes in ferreting out terrorism,” Cole adds, “the Justice Department turned an administrative infraction into a terrorism conviction that, unless reversed, will likely send Stewart to prison for the rest of her life.”
Stewart’s transgression–violating an administrative agreement to not convey any communication between her client and the outside world, is–as Cole says, simply not a crime. “In an ordinary case, the lawyer might receive a warning. In an unusual case, the lawyer might be barred from continuing to visit her client. In an extraordinary case, the lawyer might be brought up on disciplinary charges before the bar.”
But the prosecution, intent on winning a cheap “terror” conviction for its perceived public relations value, went on a transparently politically-motivated witch-hunt, and unfortunately was able to convince a jury of its spurious claims that Stewart helped abet terrorism.
Let’s do all we can to help taint this PR “victory,” and help save Stewart from an unjust prison sentence. Click here to read and circulate law professor Elaine Cassell’s essay arguing that the Stewart verdict has stretched the definition of terrorism to its outer limits, click here to send a letter in support of Stewart, and click here to contribute to her legal defense fund. And follow www.lynnestewart.org for the latest developments in her case.
Last December, I mentioned the plight of Vietnamese political prisoner Dr. Nguyen Dan Que. An endocrinologist by training, Que was detained without trial from 1978 to 1988 after he criticized national health care policy. After his release, he established a democratic-rights movement, for which he was arrested in 1990 and sentenced to another 20 years’ imprisonment.
I highlighted a letter-writing campaign led by the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights calling for Que’s release on both legal and humanitarian grounds and asked Nation readers to join in.
We were then thrilled to hear from Erik Giblin of the RFK Center sharing the great news that Que was released on January 31 and is now resting comfortably at home. So many thanks to the RFK Center for its tireless work on Que’s behalf and thanks to all Nation readers who contributed to the campaign which led to his freedom.